"Sonoma Goes 'Hollywood'"

by Patricia Henley, Sonoma Index Tribune, 30 October 2000

Sonoma Plaza and environs got a new look on Monday, as a cast and crew of more than 100 people started filming on location: at the front of City Hall.

Only it wasn't City Hall any more. A newly-erected sign declared it to be the "Elkerton Police Department." City Hall was still open — but Monday-morning visitors had to enter by the back door.

Out front was a small encampment of canvas awnings and expensive movie equipment, along with all the support crew and cast needed to film "The Animal."

Produced by Adam Sandler, the movie stars Rob Schneider as a well-meaning but bumbling police officer who receives various animal organ transplants, which make him able to run like a cheetah and swim like a dolphin. On Monday morning, Schneider chatted in front of the "Elkerton Police Department" with "police chief" Ed Asner.

At first it appeared as if Mother Nature might smile on the movie makers, and filming got underway with relatively clear skies. But then scattered showers had everyone scrambling for cover — and to cover the equipment — on and off throughout the day.

"We're pretty waterproof," said movie publicist Wendi Laski.

However, extensive rain could change the schedule. Filming is expected to last through Friday, with partial street closures of First Street East and East Napa Street on Wednesday and Thursday.

In preparation, small colorful flags were waving gaily over First Street East on Monday morning, part of the "set dressing" for a scene involving a street fair.

Traffic will be routed around the area from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. both days — assuming the weather doesn't force any changes in the plans. Laski said organizers were trying to make the impact on local residents — and traffic — as minimal as possible.

"We do our best to accommodate everybody and to make everybody understand that we're thrilled to be here and we're lucky to be able to shoot here," Laski said.

The filmmakers have estimated that more than $540,000 will enter local coffers during the filming — about $175,000 for hotels and restaurants, $75,000 in location fees, and $100,000 in construction and set dressing.

Plus, they are donating $50,000 to compensate any businesses hurt by the movie shooting around Sonoma Plaza. Claims will be verified through a committee verified by City Manager Pam Gibson.

If merchants don't claim all of the $50,000, it will become the property of the City of Sonoma, and would be given to local community groups, Gibson said.

Because of this, she urged residents to shop Plaza stores during the filming, so they don't report any losses.

©2000 Sonoma Index Tribune

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