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Businesses do 'take 2' on filming

Local businesses still are weighing the economic impacts — both positive and negative — of a film crew shooting scenes for the movie "Wild" in Ashland on Oct. 22.

During the filming, downtown Ashland was blocked off to vehicles. Pedestrians were held back for short periods as crews worked on the movie starring Reese Witherspoon.

That caused a drop-off in customers for some downtown businesses, but other companies and individuals netted income from the movie shoot.

The filming brought 110 film professionals to Ashland for three to six days per person, said city of Ashland Management Analyst Ann Seltzer.

They used a total of 600 hotel night stays, she said.

Each film crew member received a $75 per diem payment to cover meals and other expenses, Seltzer said.

In addition, the production hired 20 local art, production, hair, make-up and costume professionals, as well as 130 extras, Seltzer said.

She said the extras were paid $100 for the day of filming, which centered on the downtown Plaza, the post office and The Breadboard Restaurant on Ashland's northern outskirts.

Half of the extras were Ashland residents, she said.

"Film and video are part of the city's economic development strategy," Seltzer said. "They have been identified as an important economic development component."

The Ashland Chamber of Commerce is reaching out to local businesses to see how they were impacted by the filming, said Katharine Flanagan, director of marketing and the visitor and convention bureau for the chamber.

"We want to reach out, see how it went, what we learned, and how we can improve next time," she said.

Flanagan said the total economic impact has yet to be determined.

The film will have additional economic impacts when it comes out in theaters, she noted.

The movie is based on Cheryl Strayed's bestselling memoir "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail."

In the film, the main character, played by Witherspoon, hikes the Pacific Crest Trail and makes a pit stop in Ashland.

Susan Chester, owner of The Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant on the downtown Plaza, said she thinks the movie will have a positive economic impact on Ashland.

"It should bring some attention to our quaint downtown," she said.

During part of the filming, Chester said, customers were unable to access her business from its front entrance, which faces the Plaza, but they could come in through the back entrance.

Some customers came to the Black Sheep to watch the film crew at work through the restaurant's upstairs windows, and film-crew members came in to order food and drinks at night, Chester said.

The film crew used the downtown Plaza store Papaya! Living to shoot scenes.

"I think the customers were excited by it. We enjoyed working with them," said store manager Zoe Samczyk.

She declined to say whether the store was paid for the filming.

At Tree House Books, also on the downtown Plaza, co-owner Jane Almquist said business was slow two days before the filming and on the day of filming.

"We're thankful they chose a semi-slow week instead of during the summer. If it had happened in August, there would have been quite a bit more impact," Almquist said.

She said business slows in October after the height of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival season and before holiday shopping begins.

"Overall, I think it was a fun thing for our city," Almquist said. "Being a creative store, we love creative projects."

On the other end of the downtown, farther away from the film shoot, Rogue Valley Runners reported that business was slow earlier in the day, but picked up later after traffic was allowed back on the streets.

Gary Kout, executive director for Southern Oregon Film and Television, said precise data about the economic impact of film projects isn't usually known until after shooting ends.

Only then are filmmakers able to total up their spending for projects, he said.

Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.