Redwoods State Park to play role of a lifetime; area shoot of new Will Smith movie begins Monday

Humboldt County’s famous redwoods will star alongside Will Smith when local filming of a new Sony Pictures science fiction movie begins Monday.

Filming permits show that the production, which takes place in some of the county’s old growth stands, will be closely monitored by rangers. The production is expected to bring desirable Hollywood dollars to the community, and could potentially employ local vendors and services.

The production company declined to confirm that it is filming in Humboldt County, but permits filed with the California Film Commission and Humboldt Redwoods State Park show that “after Earth” — the latest from “The Sixth Sense” director M. Night Shyamalan — will film at various locations around the park starting Monday and lasting through May 5.

The permits show that first and second unit crews will film during this time with at least three scenes being filmed by Shyamalan.

It is unclear whether Smith will be filming any local scenes.

Permits with the state park offer an idea of the action that the forest will see over the next few weeks. It lists aerial stunts, minor pyrotechnics and a chase scene that includes actors swimming across the Eel River.

Eel River Sector Supervising Ranger John O’Rourke said there will be a ranger monitoring the filming at all times.

O’Rouke said the permit required “extensive environmental review to ensure the integrity of the park and marbled murrelet habitats.”

”They’ve jumped through those hoops,” O’Rourke said. “these guys have worked real hard with us to do this project and have gone the extra mile to satisfy us that the parks lands will be respected and preserved during the filming.”

The permits also describe a “no crumb” policy, which requires cast and crew to store and dispose of food properly, and says “off trail travel will be minimized, and trampling of vegetation will not occur.”

Parts of the park where filming takes place will be closed to the public for several weeks, but O’Rourke said the rest of the park is open to visitors as usual.

The permits also say that Mattole Road may be closed for several minutes at a time during filming on certain days.

Humboldt County Film Commissioner Cassandra Hesseltine said she could not give details about who or what was going to be filming next week, except to say “I can confirm that there is going to be filming in our area.”

Hesseltine said that Humboldt is a prime destination for commercial and independent film shoots, and said enticing more film productions in the area would be a boon to the local economy.

”I don’t think any amount of money is too small,” Hesseltine said.

Last year, Humboldt County brought in about $1 million in revenue from commercial shoots, shorts and an independent film.

”You can imagine, when a studio comes, that number is considerably larger,” Hesseltine said, adding that a multiplier effect means every dollar spent here circulates in the county for a larger impact.

Part of the film commission’s role is to put visiting production companies in touch with local vendors and services, which is largely done through the commission’s website. when production companies contact Hesseltine or search online for services, the site can point them to special services and products.

Hesseltine said the website helps her as well, as it compiles services by type and can direct companies to services that Internet searches might overlook. Local businesses manage their own profile on the website, and basic listings are free.

A number of major movies have been filmed on the North Coast, including “Return of the Jedi,” “Outbreak,” “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “The Majestic.”

According to various news reports, “after Earth” casts Will Smith and his 13-year-old son, Jaden, as an estranged father and son whose spaceship crash-lands on Earth 1,000 years after it has become uninhabitable. Jaden Smith’s character then reportedly has to traverse the post-apocalyptic planet in order to save his father. The film has been slated for release in the summer of 2013.

”after Earth” spokeswoman Cid Swank said she could not comment on the production except to say it is currently filming in Philadelphia, Penn. News reports on the production show that it filmed in Costa Rica earlier this year.

O’Rourke said the film could bring recognition to the world’s tallest trees.

”They will be the first major motion picture company to capture images in this part of the park, deep old growth that is truly magnificent and can only be found here,” O’Rourke wrote in an email. “our hope is that it will inspire a worldwide audience to love and visit the North Coast and Humboldt Redwoods in particular.”

Anyone who is interested in listing their services or business through the Humboldt County Film Commission can visit its website at

Grant Scott-Goforth can be reached at 441-0514 or

Redwoods State Park to play role of a lifetime; area shoot of new Will Smith movie begins Monday

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