Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

While businesses in the city limits may be benefitting from the recent filming of the Netflix production of Bird Box, county officials agree, but say there were some issues when film crews crossed paths with local fishermen who felt the filming came during their peak season.

County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina said while he did not yet have financial estimates to share, the benefit to the county was also substantial. He said location scouts came to the area last year but filming was delayed and the production returned later.

He said the original filming permit was issued through the Community Development Department, and he ultimately approved it for multiple county locations. However, one county-owned location which was not in the permit turned out to be ideal for filming. Sarina said upon seeing the former Bar-O Boys Ranch, film personnel said it was exactly what they had been looking for, and asked if they could shoot there.

The site has been closed since last August, but county personnel remain on site for security, Sarina said.

An agreement was completed and the crew began prepping the location, which was perfect because of its unused status and proximity to the river.

“It had the look they needed and it fit so well with the script that they wrote it in,” he said.

Sarina said the feedback from the production crew has been very positive. The same was true for the local business community.

“It sounds like it was positive overall, especially for small businesses that don’t usually do well in the winter,” he said. “They came in not knowing how it would be and found people were very open to them being here. In turn, they reciprocated by dealing with people and businesses respectfully.”

Supervisor Chris Howard said at a meeting with film officials before they departed, it was mentioned the production was spending about $1 million per day filming in Del Norte County. He said all involved government agencies and law enforcement were accommodating and helped the production go smoothly.

“They said this was the easiest they have had it at any location,” Howard said.

Cassandra Hesseltine, film commissioner at the Humboldt/ Del Norte Film Commission, said she is tallying the dollar amounts but it’s too early to make any estimates.

“There’s a crew still there wrapping up,” she said Wednesday. “It’s way too soon to tell.” She said when numbers become available, she will release them locally.

One issue

Sarina noted that some conflict arose during filming when the production crews encountered fishing guides on the Smith River.

Howard said the difficulties arose when boats in the river created wakes, or floated through fishing lines, causing issues for local fishing guide boats. He said the production used most of the parking at one boat ramp, leaving guides to park great distances from the river.

Mike Coopman, owner of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service, said he felt local guides and fishers were left out of any stakeholders meetings prior to production, which came in the middle of the profitable season.

He said permits were granted to the production to use motorized vessels on the Smith, which he said is illegal.

Sheriff Erik Apperson said crews were given permission to use the area, along with an escort from law enforcement.

“They contracted to have law enforcement services and supervision over the more dangerous areas of the filming,” Apperson said.

Undersheriff Bill Steven noted no permit was issued for motorboats, and the ordinance was issued decades ago to address noise issues. He said allowing crews into limited areas didn’t generate any noise complaints.

Suddenly Hollywood shows up and they roll out the red carpet for them,” Coopman said, “and we, as fishing guides, got caught under it.”

Coopman said he spoke with Howard, Apperson, and the Forest Service about the issue afterward. He said he got some satisfaction in speaking with U.S. Forest Service officials.

“It was pretty rough on us,” Coopman said. “Some of these trips were booked a year in advance by people spending money in the county, who had their day ruined by a Hollywood production that just dumps money and leaves. It was pretty hard for us but we got through it and I’m glad we did. I just hope that in the future we’ll be considered.”

The Netflix film will star Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich and IMDb estimates the film will be released in December.