Shooting for Robert Downey Jr. film ‘The Judge’ starts Friday in Shelburne Falls

Last modified: Tuesday, July 16, 2013

SHELBURNE — About this time last year, Shelburne Falls was dressed up to play the fictional 1980s town of “Holbrook Mills, N.H.,” in preparation for scenes for the movie “Labor Day.” But Wednesday, some storefronts began getting another movie “makeover,” as Shelburne Falls gets ready for its role as a small Indiana town for “The Judge.”

This movie, starring Robert Downey Jr., Leighton Meester, Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, Vera Farmiga and Vincent D’Onofrio, begins shooting today, with aerial footage and “driving shots” of a funeral cortege down State and Bridge streets. A helicopter with a camera mount will be filming these scenes, with traffic and pedestrian control on Bridge and State streets during filming. A flier that went out to residents and merchants warned them to expect delays due to filming and to note “no parking” signs or traffic cones in filming areas.

The movie plot is about a lawyer (played by Downey) who comes back to his hometown and learns that his estranged father (played by Duvall) is a murder suspect.

Close-up street scenes will be filmed next week, starting Monday, primarily around State and Bridge streets and the Iron Bridge. Throughout the weekdays, there will be traffic and pedestrian control for some of the scenes to be filmed.

On Tuesday night, Warner Bros. Location Manager Nancy Haecker and Marie Healy of the Locations Department met with Buckland Select Board to tweak traffic control plans and permit details.

Just beyond the selectmen’s office in Town Hall, in the upstairs meeting room, a group of film writers were working.

Haecker told selectmen that merchants and businesses that might be inconvenienced by either traffic delays or unavailable parking spaces have been compensated.

Filming moves to the Arms Cemetery Tuesday, then back to the village on Wednesday, when a tornado is to be staged on Bridge Street.

“We’re asking for greater control that day,” said Haecker. She said the filmmakers would like to detour traffic away from Bridge Street and from the Iron Bridge for about 12 hours, rather than having to start and stop traffic throughout the day. She said she thought the detour would be easier on local residents.

Also, she said, the scene requires mostly empty streets.

Selectman Kevin Fox remarked that, except after Tropical Storm Irene, the Iron Bridge has never been closed for that long.

During the filming of “Labor Day,” Fox said, scenes took about 10 to 15 minutes each, when traffic was stopped. Then traffic was allowed again on an intermittent basis.

Selectmen told Haecker the Massachusetts Department of Transportation had to give permission to close the bridge — even if it were only for a few hours.

When asked how long it would take to film the tornado scene, Haecker said, “This is one of those things that will take a long time to set up and then shoot.” She added that a “shooting call” is the amount of time that cameras will roll, but getting ready for filming can take 90 minutes beforehand.

Next week’s filming will end with night shots, with traffic control on the Iron Bridge, State and Bridge streets on Thursday and Friday. There will also be traffic- and pedestrian-control for some scenes on these days.

The film work in Shelburne Falls will stop for a week, then return for day and night-filming on June 12 and 13.


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