Lights, camera, action ... Ninja Turtles!
Hours after the highway was closed and the giant lights along the Kensington Expressway turned Monday night into day, audience members opted for a different kind of seat on this first overnight of production for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.”
“Mommy, is somebody going to blow up the bridge?” asked 5-year-old Korey Burnett. The little boy held onto his mother’s hand as they stood on the Northampton Street overpass looking down on stunt crews preparing a fleet of Dodge SUVs for a night of pyrotechnics.
Elizabeth Stewart shook her head and smiled as she steered her son off the bridge and down the street toward their home.
“He begged to come see the lights,” Stewart said. “And now we’re going to bed.”
Not everyone was leaving the spectacle that would close 1.7 miles of inbound and outbound expressway between Elm Street and Route 198 every night through May 17.
Kim Smith of Herman Street stood nearby, looking at the bystanders watch the production preparation.
She had a theory about the blasts and booms that Buffalo Film Commission officials had warned of. “It may be louder than we thought, depending on the direction of the wind, but right now we are excited,” said Smith, 40.
“Just to know that our little Buffalo will be included in movie – losing sleep for two weeks – is worth it,” said Tracy Pettigrew, a Fruit Belt resident.
The midnight hour was slated to launch a rousing pyrotechnic show that was the subject of a press briefing early Monday evening.
“We want to make sure that no one is super frightened by the noise,” said Tim Clark, director of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission. “Paramount has done a really good job on public outreach, but again, the first night we want to remind people.”
Sinclair Fabor, 54, said he would probably sleep through the blasts, which brought chuckles from 17-year-old daughter Jordan.
Rich Wall, director of operations for the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission, called the two-week production schedule “the ultimate realization of what we do. To have a studio picture of this magnitude come in – even though it’s not the stars – it certainly brings the economic benefits that we’ve been striving for. I’m a fan of $7 million dollars plus coming to town.
“Half Shell Base Camp” was set up nearby at Humboldt Parkway and Northampton to accommodate the 200 people brought in by Paramount Pictures.
A catering truck, equipment trailer, porta-toilets, and one huge hospitality tent to keep workers warm, dry and fed also filled the area. With winds at one point of 32 mph and a misty rain falling, the temperature Monday evening felt a lot colder than the 54 degrees reported.
Reports from the scene hinted the pyrotechnic production activity would not likely get underway until past midnight, when dinner was to be served in the tent.
Included in the armada of support vehicles provided by Union Concrete & Construction Corp. of West Seneca was a water truck for wetting down the highway, even though the forecast called for showers throughout the night.
“The roadway looks better cinematically when wet,” noted Tim Clark, Buffalo Niagara film commissioner.
Carley Hill of Union Concrete & and Construction said her crew of 15 was eager for the extra work since Buffalo’s construction season is so short.
“Let’s just say I don’t have a lack of response when I ask who would like this extra work,” she said.
The firm is handling road-closing and detour signage around the Kensington Expressway, along with equipment to safely shut down the busy roadway. It was also handling cleaning up the 33 after shooting wraps every night.
“Every morning, after they’re done playing around on the highway, we’ll clean up their mess,” said Hill.
Buffalo businesses mixed with Paramount’s crews on the first night of filming on the Kensington. The production has hired 150 people locally and is using 150 vendors for everything from catering to replacing windshields from stunt cars. They’re happy for the work and thrilled to be part of the latest incarnation of their childhood heroes – in a half-shell.
Sterling Lee, owner of EM Tea Coffee Cup Cafe on Oakgrove Avenue, was asked by Paramount to provide his services.
Timothy Hall of Ink Spot printing on Jefferson Avenue said the production was keeping him busy too. “They’re not asking for five paper clips,” said Hall. “Their orders are in the hundreds.”
As soon as his shop was closed Monday, Hall would be heading down to a friend’s house on Humboldt to try to catch a glimpse of the action scenes being filmed.
“Of course. I’m a ‘Turtles’ fan, and so are my little daughters,” he said.
Lee said he plans to watch the production from his own second-floor porch.
“Whatever action is available I will see it,” said Lee, 30. “I was a Ninja Turtle for Halloween for four straight years. I was a big fan. I’m an ’80s baby at heart.”