TF2 Crew Arrives in Bethlehem, Pa

Posted on May 31, 2008

From the Morning Call:

The beginning of a blockbuster?

By Michael Duck Of The Morning Call / May 29, 2008

Explosions, blazing lights and even military helicopters will all be part of making a Hollywood movie about giant, shape-shifting robots — but, as the Bethlehem neighbors of the ”Transformers 2” movie set will find out next week, it might not involve much sleep.

The movie’s crew will be turning the former Bethlehem Steel site into a nighttime war zone from 4 p.m. Monday until 7 a.m. Tuesday, Mayor John Callahan said Wednesday. The filming will continue the following two nights during the same hours.

Notices were sent to neighbors and nearby business owners Tuesday warning them about the upcoming noise, glare and road closures that will come along with the filming of one of the movie’s opening scenes, which will feature the computer-generated robots alongside Steel’s instantly-recognizable blast furnaces.

”It is essentially going to be a simulated war,” Callahan said.

”Overall, it’s a great thing for the city,” he said, citing the economic impact from the roughly 200 crew members staying in hotels and buying supplies.

At the same time, city officials know the filming might be an inconvenience for anyone trying to sleep through director Michael Bay’s pyrotechnic displays. Callahan said officials want to make sure residents know what’s going on so they won’t call police with worries or complaints about the noise.

The movie, which follows up on Bay’s 2007 blockbuster ”Transformers,” focuses on extraterrestrial robots that disguise themselves as everything from cars to fighter jets. Both movies are based on the ”Transformers” toys and cartoon that rocketed to popularity in the 1980s.

The Bethlehem scene will be set in a fictional Chinese city. The movie’s crew has already recruited dozens of local residents of Asian descent to work as extras.

Members of the movie crew appeared to be building part of the set Wednesday at the western edge of the blast furnaces. Also on Wednesday, dozens of trucks carrying filming equipment rolled into a parking lot at the nearby Steel Ice Center.

”It’s pretty thrilling that they’re going to be right here,” said Nancy Hudson of Bethlehem, the ice rink’s receptionist, adding that she and her family are ”big fans of Optimus Prime” — the heroic Transformers leader who changes into a tractor-trailer.

”Right now, we’re all kind of looking out and wondering what’s going to happenÂ…and hoping that they have people watching their equipment,” Hudson said, alluding to the pricey lights and other filmmaking supplies.

In fact, security is tight on the movie set, the Bethlehem Steel site and even the ice rink’s parking lot. When a Morning Call reporter checked out the parking lot Wednesday afternoon, a security guard with a badge featuring the ”Transformers” logo politely asked him to move along.

The notice issued Tuesday to neighbors and nearby businesses mentions that the filming will include ”large-scale pyrotechnics,” fake guns and several military helicopters, Callahan said. He added the filming will also shut down nearby parts of Third and Polk streets from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

In addition, lights will be set up along the Lehigh Canal towpath to illuminate the blast furnaces from across the Lehigh River, Callahan said.

The Rev. Gordon Mowrer, a city councilman, lives nearby in Moravian Village on the north side of the river. He jokingly pledged to sit out in a lawn chair to take in the scene next week.

”I really am curious to see what it’s going to be like,” he said, adding that it might be a preview of the noise and lighting that Musikfest concerts will bring to the Steel site in a few years.

Asked where other curious onlookers might get a glimpse of the action, Callahan declined to offer any suggestions. ”We’re not necessarily encouraging people to come out,” he said, but he acknowledged that people are excited to see the filming and will probably find some good vantage points at a safe distance.

”It’s like the fireworks,” Callahan said. ”We don’t tell people where to go to watch the fireworks, but they seem to figure it out.”