This week, “Safe Haven” is looking a lot like “Firestarter.”
The 1984 movie that kicked off the film industry in the Wilmington area shot only a few scenes in Southport, but the scenes being filmed for “Safe Haven” this week might as well be mistaken for a “Firestarter” sequel.
Fireworks were shot off a barge in the Yacht Basin overnight Monday and on into early-morning Tuesday, and special effects depicting a fire at the Ryan’s Port Market general-store set are scheduled to start tonight (Wednesday), continuing Thursday night and concluding Friday.
Filming each day this week is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m.
David Fletcher, the film’s special effects coordinator, told city aldermen earlier this month that he planned to stage the bulk of effects as early in the evening as possible, so as to minimize disturbances to neighbors. The first day’s early-morning fireworks may have been due to windy conditions Monday evening and a storm that passed over Southport overnight.
“I wish this wind would die down,” Fletcher said as filming began Monday on Brunswick Street.
On her Twitter page, actress Julianne Hough acknowledged the fireworks and apologized for the noise.
“Just finished shooting! Sorry to all the Southport residents for the ongoing fireworks throughout the night! Y’all are amazing! Good night!” Hough tweeted around daybreak Tuesday morning.
A Southport fire truck was on stand-by in case of an emergency, but safety crews involved in the production are also taking precautions. Fletcher has said it is his job to make sure the fire scenes are without incident, and on Monday he was seen taking charge of the area, inspecting gas lines fueling propane to the building and hopping off and on the fireworks barge positioned in the Yacht Basin.
A priority for the production is protection of nearby residences, many of them historic homes, as well as a mature live oak that branches out over the Ryan’s Port Market building. Fletcher has said water curtains would be used to prevent any flames from catching the tree, and the fire is slated to be focused on the opposite side of the structure, facing the water—contained to what are called “fire boxes” that will be placed in the windows.
Fletcher, who was born in Southport, Australia—a suburb in Queensland, to be more specific—told the aldermen that his job is to protect not only the crew but the people of Southport, North Carolina. On set on Monday, Fletcher noted similarities between the two places, which he described as similar boating communities.
“When I was a kid, Southport was a really small town, like here—the roads were still dirt, the road where my house was still dirt. Now, it’s the biggest tourist location in Australia,” Fletcher said. “You can surf on some of the finest beaches in the world. Snapper Rocks is a famous place for surfing.”
Southport, North Carolina, however, is all work for Fletcher, whose career in special effects has spanned 26 years and included such films as “Face/Off” and “Fast Five” of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise.
By air, by the water
In addition to fire and fireworks, filming this week has also involved a helicopter filming aerial shots. The copter was first seen a few weeks ago flying over the Yacht Basin and the Intracoastal Waterway, and on Sunday, it was seen above Southport again, this time conducting some approaches on the set and filming a bus around town.
The copter will return for more aerial shots this week and on into next, when filming will move from Brunswick Street to primarily the Old American Fish Company bar, which is being used as a waterside restaurant called “Ivan’s Fish Shack.” The bar was closed to the public on Monday as set designers and decorators started moving in.
Filming will continue through mid-August, and plans call for scenes along several streets in Southport. Driving scenes involving “rolling roadblocks” are planned, and the production will culminate with a staged parade on Moore Street, using floats that were featured in this year’s N.C. Fourth of July Festival parade, and a “Fourth of July dance” at the Southport Community Building.
Both the parade and the dance are scheduled for Wednesday, August 8, weather permitting. The parade will be routed along East Moore Street from Atlantic Avenue to Howe Street, and the procession will wind around the block via South Howe Street, East Bay Street and up the wrong way on the one-way Davis Street, to come back around to East Moore Street. Traffic will be blocked off during the parade.
While the dance is being filmed at the community building, an arts and crafts fair—essentially Southport’s Waterfront Market, which is scheduled that morning—will be staged on the Fort Johnston Garrison lawn, with vendors from the market leaving their tables and tents up through the afternoon.
Filming requires a crowd at the fair, and the public is invited to serve as that crowd, with the understanding that they may appear in the movie.