SLIDESHOW: “Grassroots” Movie Conducts A Drive-By Filming In Burien

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Story and photos by Michael Brunk

It all started with a cryptic e-mail popping up on my cell phone with a time and an address in Burien. And multiple admonishments not to breath a word of it to anyone. Just show up with my camera gear and be ready to shoot. Yeah OK, I can handle that.

Turned out to be an on-set visit to the movie “Grassroots” currently filming in Seattle.

Actors DC Pierson and Jason Biggs sit in the car while the camera shot is lined up

The film is a character-driven comedy that tells the story of the 2001 campaign of Grant Cogswell and his attempt to unseat Seattle City Councilman Richard McIver. Cogswell is livid over McIver’s support for ground-based rail transit and runs on a pro-Monorail platform. A true underdog story.

There are plenty of names you’ll recognize attached to the project. Cogswell is played by Joel David Moore (Dodgeball, Bones) and his opponent McIver by Cedric the Entertainer (Barbershop, The Original Kings of Comedy).

The cast also includes Lauren Ambrose (Law & Order, Six Feet Under), Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother), Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore, Requiem for a Dream), Tom Arnold (Roseanne, True Lies) and Emily Bergl (Gilmore Girls).

Tonight though, I’m going to photograph the crew preparing for a scene with Jason Biggs (American Pie) who plays Cogswell’s campaign manager and ex-Stranger reporter Phil Campbell and DC Pierson (Mystery Team). The production is making the trek down to Burien to shoot an in-car scene using the city’s relatively quiet late-night streets.

But they’re running late and that’s my first clue that schedules can be a nebulous concept on an independent film production and that I’m way too early. I hang out with location manager Stacia Beer, the sound guy and the film’s intern while we wait for something to happen.

Director Stephen Gyllenhaal speaks with the actors prior to shooting the scene

Maybe 30 minutes go by and it starts to dawn on me that this was just the calm before the storm. Soon people are streaming into the location, actors are being wired with mics and then the battered old Volvo station wagon that will be used for the scene shows up and things kick into high gear.

As soon as the Volvo is backed into position a crowd of technical folks descend on it like a swarm of locusts. Tonight’s scene is going to involve filming the actors in the car while the car is driving through the streets of Burien. They won’t actually be driving the car though, it’s going to be towed behind a truck. And since the car will be moving the lighting for the scene sprouts from the roof of the car like some kind of electric halo. The Red One digital cinema camera is also mounted to the car, hanging off the passenger side door on a rig called a “hostess tray.”

It’s a scene of loosely organized chaos as the car is prepped. Camera, lighting and sound crew are all working at the same time and the actors are sitting in the car being briefed by director Stephen Gyllenhaal (Paris Trout, Waterland, Losing Isaiah).

Finally everything seems to be ready to roll. The actors have gone through a dry run of the scene and a final briefing about who is riding in which vehicle in the convoy is complete. I hastily head out to the nearby street so I can photograph the Volvo as they depart to film.

The Volvo heads out onto the streets of Burien to film the scene

The truck rolls out towing the Volvo, I snap a half a dozen shots as they pass by and then everything is quiet again.

It’s well after midnight now and I’m more than ready to head home and crawl into bed. The production crew isn’t so lucky though, they’ve still got several hours of filming before they’ll call it a night.

As I wearily stumble back to my car, I reflect on my crazy little brush with the movie industry and wonder how many calls the Burien Police Department is going to get about low flying UFOs. Covering local news makes for long days sometimes, but I have to admit that this job is rarely boring.

Here’s a slideshow of photos I shot during my evening with the “Grassroots” crew. It’s set to audio from the 1948 documentary “Let’s Go to the Movies” so check your volume before clicking!

Click to Play
Click to Play Michael Brunk’s Photo Slideshow

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3 Responses to “SLIDESHOW: “Grassroots” Movie Conducts A Drive-By Filming In Burien”
  1. Greg Wright says:

    Dude, you better watch out. They gonna hire you.

    • Coverofnight says:

      I agree; excellent slideshow. Thanks for showing these “behind-the-scenes” images on just part of what it takes to make a film. It’s no wonder that it’s such a large industry employing many people.

  2. Chris says:

    Judging from the last picture, they were shooting in the area of SW 148th Street and 8th Ave SW. Whose garage were they in (or where was it)?

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