April 12, 2006
RUTHERFORD ON FILM: Anguish, Memories Immortalized on Film; Retro Fourth Avenue Readied for Its Wednesday Closeup; Nearby Streets Closed for Filmmakers
By Tony Rutherford
Huntington News Network Columnist

Joseph “McG” Nichol
Huntington, WV (HNN) -- After an anguish of more than 35 years, the word and images filmed on the Marshall University campus by director Joseph “McG” Nichol will at long last grant a new sense of immortality to the 75 who were too young to pass.
As McG told an audience prior to filming on Monday, April 10, “Everything you see here has been captured and will live forever on film.” The same can be said for the gathering Tuesday, April 11, 2006 of an estimated 5,000 friends of Marshall who gathered at the fountain to recreate the solemn annual memorial service.
Despite the cables, camera, and technicians, tears flowed just as did the water in the pool surrounding the fountain sculpture. After shooting a main scene, McG and crew then did individual shots of members of families who lost loved ones in the crash. Some came solo, some in pairs, but all were instructed to “look at the water”’ with a serious expression.
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Sitting inside the Memorial Student Center, Pam Haynes, West Virginia Film Commissioner, looked proud of the accomplishments of “We Are Marshall.” Haynes explained that the filmmakers first had to convince nearly 50,000 people that they would accurately and respectfully tell the plane crash story. And, after months of work, she too believes the finished film will reflect positively on the state, community and university.
With a $50 million dollar plus production and marketing budget, “We Are Marshall” represents the largest studio film in terms of filming days in the state to bring cast, crew, and production personnel to West Virginia for an extended stay.
The economic benefits instantly point to motels and restaurants from the filmmakers, but Haynes added that many of those who gathered Tuesday had come from out of town. They likely would eat and perhaps stay in the city.
She can provide no formula for how much economic impact a motion picture production has on the local economy. “Each is different,” she said, noting that since “We Are Marshall” is a “period” piece, the long term economic results will not be known for months.
Her office has worked with the Governor’s Office, MU, the Huntington Regional Film Commission, and all studio and production contacts to bring to fruition the three week on location shooting of the Warner Bros. picture.
McG continued to invigorate his charismatic campaign for “the people’s mayor” of Huntington, by signing autographs, holding toddlers, and posing for pictures between breaks in filming, particularly when the crew had to rearrange the equipment to set up for shots from a different angle.
Watching at the digital monitors, he and other producers and the writer often discussed specific ‘visions’ for a shot or shots. Amazingly, McG already pointed at the screen telling others how this shot would be match with another one in the completed product. He, in particular, remained quite the Hollywood business professional, appearing today in a dress shirt, dress pants and wingtips.
Meanwhile, on Fourth Avenue, downtown Huntington prepared for its retro-moments. The neon light at the Frederick has already been fixed. Warner Bros. technicians worked on the poster display cases at the ornate Keith Albee, placing posters for “Wild Bunch” and “Trog,” as well as removing the red and white “1,2,3,4” from the marquee.
At the peanut shop next door, the window has been decorated as it would have been in the 1970s. St. Mark’s Bar has become St. Mark’s Shoes with various Converse, pumps and other styles displayed in the windows. Additional signs were in the process of painting late Tuesday afternoon, including one for “Huntington Arms.”
Traffic will be blocked on Fourth Avenue tomorrow as the Warner Bros. filmmakers shoot exteriors, which will be an education for school groups attending the Marshall Artists Series presentation of the Kennedy Center’s “Willy Wonka.”