The major motion picture being filmed right here in Howard County -- who knew? -- will take to the streets of Columbia tomorrow night as the movie's crew makes a rare public appearance, apparently to shoot a car chase.
The producers of "Species 2" -- a sequel to the 1995 science-fiction horror movie "Species" -- have accomplished the seemingly impossible by getting a large billboard erected on the otherwise sign-free streets of Columbia.
But for the most part, their work has attracted little notice beyond the businesses that have benefited from the money they are leaving behind.
That's because, although the cast and crew have been in town since late June, they've spent almost all their time filming behind closed doors at an enormous warehouse-turned-sound stage in Gateway Industrial Park.
They did venture out for a few days' work at the Stop Shop Save food market at Mondawmin Mall last month. Tomorrow evening they will be on Columbia's Broken Land Parkway from 6: 30 p.m. until 4 a.m. Friday, according to Howard County police.
Traffic will be stopped for two- to three-minute intervals during that time while the crew shoots the scene -- with a "Virginia is for Lovers" billboard in the background. Lest sensitive Columbia eyes be offended, the billboard was covered yesterday shortly after it was erected.
Traffic also will be disrupted late Friday and early Saturday morning by filming in the Gateway Commerce Center in East Columbia.
Other than that, "Species 2" producers have kept the filming of their sci-fi movie very hush-hush. Details of the plot are sketchy -- something about an alien coming back to Earth disguised as an astronaut.
Curious reporters, looking to get the smallest morsel of information about the filming, have been barred from the set by a guard posted at the entrance to the mammoth sound stage.
A few local business owners have seen their profits boosted this summer by money spent on hotels, meals and entertainment for the film crew.
Debby Souleyrette, manager of Koko's Food Mart, a full-service deli around the corner from the Gateway sound stage, says business picked up about the time the film crew got to town.
"For us, it's been great that they're filming here," she said. "All the guys from the crew are real friendly, and they've been coming in here all summer. It's too bad they can't stay."
A few film crew members have come in for a quick haircut at Ron Boswell's Hair Plaza, next door to Koko's. A couple of director-types occasionally stop by, as did the chauffeur hired to drive the film's star, Natasha Henstridge, Boswell says.
"I'm certainly glad they're here," he said while shaving the nape of a young client's neck. "One of the guys who came in told me that they're spending $250,000 on living expenses alone in Howard County."
That's not out of the question since, according to one local real estate agent, many members of the "Species 2" crew have been living in 90 furnished apartments in the Owen Brown village for the past three months, paid for by MGM/United Artists. The rent on each apartment: between $1,500 and $3,000 per month.
Boswell said the "Species 2" guys have "all told me that they've enjoyed being here. The only thing bad that I've heard is that there's no night life in Columbia."
Maryland often doubles as an inexpensive and accessible substitute for Washington -- as it does in "Species 2" -- says Jack Gerbes, deputy director of the Baltimore-based Maryland Film Commission. The past four years have seen a boom in the number of film crews that have come to Maryland, and this year has been the busiest ever for films shot by major Hollywood studios, he says.
In June, actors Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley filmed "For Richer or Poorer" in Baltimore City and Baltimore and Carroll counties, and Oprah Winfrey is currently filming an adaptation of "Beloved," Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, in Cecil County.
Gerbes says filmmakers are drawn to places such as Columbia, which have "very good, strong support services like hotels, sites for sets, that sort of thing. It can make a big difference in the terms of the kind of people you attract."
"And, wherever films go to get made, enormous economic development follows," he added.
Dennis Taylor, president of the local Teamsters union, says drivers hired to work on the set are paid $19 an hour and are contracted by the day.
Although food on the set is provided by an on-site caterer, all produce has been purchased from local grocers such as Sysco in Jessup and Monarch Market in Columbia.
And part of the movie was shot on the set of Baltimore's Flite Three studio. Ann Lovelace, Flite Three's general manager, says the "Species 2" crew rented two studios for six weeks. The daily rate on each studio, Lovelace says, averages about $800.
Richard W. Story, executive director of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, says the filming of "Species 2" is sure to help the bottom line of a lot of county businesses.
"I think this film will have a significant impact on Howard," he said. "I mean, I'm not sure that Howard County is ever going to be the center of East Coast filmmaking, but this is a very exciting time."
"And, now the people in Hollywood know that we have the infrastructure to support this kind of filmmaking," he said. "And hopefully, they'll come back."
Pub Date: 8/27/97