SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Lights! Camera! Roll the Potato Flakes!
Despite the fact it’s wintertime and it snowed all day here Tuesday, production crews weren’t willing to rely on Mother Nature to supply the white stuff needed in the blizzard scene of the ABC miniseries “Storm of the Century.”
They brought their own fake snow — potato flakes, 32,500 pounds of the whitish-yellow, water-makes-them-clumpy, you-wouldn’t-want-to-eat-them-after-this potato flakes.
During the first of four days of filming along Main Street, the crew of Rainfall Productions Inc., 30 local extras and several dozen curious onlookers had the chance to see just how potato snow works. Using three giant airplane engines, crews blew the tons of flakes on the set, which was about 200 yards of Southwest Harbor’s downtown area.
Some summed it up in two words: “It blows.”
“It gets everywhere,” said Sue Clark of Southwest Harbor with a laugh. Decked out in warm clothes for her role as an extra, Clark had potato flakes on her hat, in her hair — just about everywhere.
“You have a potato flake in your nose,” chortled another extra, Diana Johnson of Tremont.
After months of anticipation and deliberation, including worries from some town residents and selectmen about the possible bad effects filming a miniseries here might have, a crew of nearly 100 assembled at 6 a.m. under snowy, stormy skies.
From dawn to dusk, film crews shot “exterior” segments that will be used to set the stage for the plot of the miniseries. According to a film official who asked not to be named, “Storm’s” plot, written by Stephen King, lives up to his gift for creating the truly evil.
The series centers largely on a devil character named “Linoge” who is looking for a small child to succeed him. The child is a member of a small, coastal town in Maine called Little Tall Island, (aka Southwest Harbor). In order to lure the town into giving him the child, Linoge inflicts his wrath, creating a catastrophic blizzard, bringing destruction to its waterfront and killing off some of its citizens.
Although the majority of the series is being filmed in Toronto, Canada, Southwest Harbor’s downtown and waterfront are being used for the series’ outside shots. But despite being picked as a near-perfect fit for the film’s needs, crews have spent much of the last few weeks making the classic setting look even more classic. Shops that once had clean, grey exteriors now have lobster traps, fish netting and other Hollywood-style additions designed to make the Maine coastal village look, well, more Maine-ish.
On Tuesday the scenes being shot were simple. Amid the flurries of potato flakes extras scurried around the town and cars drove down the street as cameras rolled.
This week’s filming involves extras only. The real actors of the series have not yet been cast, according to casting director Dee Cooke. Once picked, some of those actors are expected to come to town when the crews return for brief filming stints in March, April and June.
For Director Craig Baxley, the first day of filming was “terrific. The day couldn’t be better. It’s a beautiful setting. The people are terrific.”
Dozens of curious locals, like Barrett Young of Mount Desert, shared that enthusiasm. “It’s really very exciting,” said Young, who also was on hand to see another King movie, “Pet Sematary,” filmed on Mount Desert Island several years ago. “It’s great for the economy. It’s good to have a King film right here. And he always is so generous in giving back to the community.”