A Burns Adventure – “Lean On Pete”



Burns, Oregon. Photo: Talented Animals/Lauren Henry

By Mark “Sparky”Haleston  

When a film crew arrives at a location it’s like a small army moving in. The industry in the northwest is vibrant and crews now are well versed even with the small market that exists here.

Portland and Oregon in general have great locations. They look lush with color and diversity. Within a 90 mile radius or Portland, we find the Pacific Ocean, an a 11,000 foot mountain, urban cities, rural farm land and high desert.

On location the public is always interested in what’s happening. “What are you filming?” is the question asked most often, “are you from LA?” The answer, “No, most of us live here.”  You only have to look at the licence plates.  Much of the infrastructure of equipment is also locally based.

In the past decade, filmmaking in the state has done well. Mostly in Portland. So what happens when it goes to a smaller town like Burns?  That’s our story. A short time ago a little movie called, “Lean on Pete” was filmed mostly in and around Portland but for a portion of it we needed a rural area.  All the workers and gear was packed up and headed southeast – it’s a long drive to Burns and once they arrived the population went up immediately.  The craftsmen in each department arrive, next the actors, trucks, cars, and equipment – like an instant bee hive.  Then the work starts.  The locals were somewhat confused, many had been told of the invasion but still they didn’t expect what was about to be revealed.  It’s an interesting process to experience. A certain level of the magic is shared and on-lookers are fascinated to witness how a movie is produced. We like to invite them to ask questions, people like to be included.  Social media usually then blows up with the stories of encounters, and meeting an actor is immediately bragging rights!

The days are long in August and September. Once the production is finished for the evening, it’s Miller time.  What is there to do in a small rural town? Seems like the crews favorite is taking over a restaurant or bar.  The locals at the daily watering hole are hit by a sunami of filmee’s thirsty for a few barley pops. The bartenders normal routine, shifts into overdrive and a bar that usually seats 14, now has 70 new customers.  This continues all over town. Retail is experiencing a turbo-boosted sales event! Film crews are good for the local economy. Imagine the needs for 200 people all of a sudden.

As the week goes on, everyone now knows the crew has arrived. It gets really comfortable, quick. The locals all know your name by Wednesday and are more than happy to expedite any special order from anywhere, overnight.  The trickle down effect when a dollar is spent in a local business, can circulate many time within the town.  One experience to prove the theory, was when crewmembers were all given $2 bills as per diem. During the weeks of production bills were showing up at every business in town.  One local bar in Burns actually asked the crew not to return. The reason was the lack of staff was a hardship on the owner, he was overwhelmed!  The other bar in town welcomed the entire crew with open arms and hired and a new server they hired was so festive he decided to match drinking skills with the new patrons!

Film crews do make a difference when they visit. Go and see, “Lean on Pete“, it’s a good story. Watch it and look at Oregon on film. It’s impressive.

Lean on Pete”  premiered to exceptional reviews at The Venice Film Festival in competition and also played Telluride and Toronto earlier this year.

– IN THEATERS April 6 –

Directed by Andrew Haigh (Weekend; 45 Years), and based on the beloved novel by Willy Vlautin, “Lean on Pete” is a deeply moving story about love, loneliness, family, and friendship, told through the unique prism of one boy’s connection to a very special racehorse.

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