May 11

1927 — Formation of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences


They’re filming a movie outside your office.

This isn’t as rare an occurrence as people might expect.  Although many productions shoot in New York and California, to take advantage of available resources and actors, your city has a good relationship with low-budget studios.  The government here offers significant tax breaks to attract filmmakers to the area.

Some days, as you’re driving to work, access to major streets might be blocked with orange cones or yellow police tape, to indicate a scene in progress.  More than once, you’ve had to park a few blocks away, and walk the remaining distance to work.

A huge inconvenience.  But a couple times, you’ve spotted minor celebrities in the Double Diner:  the crazy neighbor from a sitcom you never watched; the actor who played Jesse on the first season of Family Side, before he got replaced.

And the other side benefit, from your seventh-floor, windowed office:  a bird’s eye view of some of the action.

Lots of police cars clustered below, lights flashing and sirens wailing.  The studio must have brought some of their own vehicles, but probably borrowed some local Crown Vics to fill out the group.

They’re staging some pretty dramatic footage, from what you can see.  A few cars crash through the police blockade, followed by a small explosion.  You hope the crew got a permit for the pyrotechnics.

One of the stuntmen puts on a pretty convincing display of being injured, staggering out of the car, blood dripping from his wounds.

Then another car comes crashing through, actually hitting a fire hydrant and sending a spray of water into the air.  A pretty cliché stunt, actually…but it looks like they damaged an actual hydrant.

Tax breaks or not, the filmmakers were going to have to pay for that.

You always try to figure out what kind of movie they’re making.  This one, you’re certain, isn’t the type likely to win an Academy Award.  No coffee shop love story, or light comedy about mistaken identity.  This is an attempt at a summer blockbuster:  maybe a quick rip-off of the latest sci-fi or disaster flick.

The next stunt gag confirms your guess, as a large metal contraption hovers into view.  It’s a pretty effective prop, and the actors and stunt people react accordingly.  Most of them scramble for cover behind cars, but several of the “police officers” point guns at the massive ship, shoot blanks, and the tech guys make sparks fly off the metal hull.

You would have thought they’d add the bullet-hit effects afterwards with CGI, but whatever.  Honestly, the whole ship should be a computer added effect — this one looks kind of fake, the way it’s hovering there in the middle of the street.

The frame of your window helps you imagine the scene as it might look on a movie screen.  Something tells you this is the biggest-budget production to visit your city.

Strangest thing, though.  The big camera cranes don’t seem to be present, like usual.  Maybe they’re all filming this on their phones, for one of those shaky-cam false documentaries.  Or maybe this is a practice run, and they’ll wait and film the “real” take after they’ve worked out the logistics.

Another car crash and small explosion, with the muffled sound effects audible through your closed window.  It’s really getting kind of good.  They’ve started a weird kind of laser show from the spaceship prop, and more of the cars and storefronts are exploding, with several of the actors falling down to play dead.

You’re not even sure how they’re doing all these stunts.  Movie magic is the only explanation you can come up with.  You call out to other people in your company, hoping they’re similarly standing wide-eyed at their own nearby windows.  You want to make sure they’re not missing anything.

Nobody answers.

Maybe they’ve all gone downstairs to get a closer look at the action.