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Merchants roll out red carpet for filmmakers

SHELBURNE FALLS — Will movie-making become the next big “tourist” industry for Shelburne Falls? If so, merchants are ready to roll out the red carpet.

While town officials are putting the finishing touches on a filmmaking permit process, local businesses are getting ready for additional business this summer.

“I’m absolutely proud and delighted that Warner Bros. Film Studio has chosen to do substantial filming of ‘The Judge’ in our blessed wee village of Shelburne Falls,” said entrepreneur Michael McCusker, former owner of McCusker’s Market and current owner of the Bridge of Flowers Business Center. In a one-page letter that McCusker handed out at Buckland’s annual town meeting, he said: “I feel that the inconveniences that we will undoubtedly tolerate (which means a little more preplanning of our day) is easily worth it, when I consider the tremendous value the production process brings to the village. ... Having a movie here sheds a most positive light on us one and all, and thus becomes an invitation to ‘customers’ to visit us from nearby communities.”

“At the end of the weeks of filming, we will have benefited from a tremendous marketing package to be felt for months and years to come,” McCusker concluded.

Meanwhile, the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association has announced a special merchants promotion, to help introduce the local village businesses to the filmmakers. The association will be creating eight local products gift baskets that will be given to “The Judge” film stars, the producer and director. Association members have been invited to include some of their products.

Also, the business association will create a Shop Local Card to be given to each of the estimated 130 crew members who will be in the village for about three weeks, according to an email from the business association sent out on Thursday.

“We have been told that 80 percent of the crew are from Massachusetts, so they could very well come back to the region with family and friends after filming,” said the notice.

The card will resemble a debit card, with a picture of the area on the front and a special code on the back, along with a website address. When users log in to the website, there will be a list of participating businesses, contact information and the promotion that each would like to offer. The card will be valid from this June until Aug. 30, 2014. At any time, participating businesses will be able to update or change promotional items. Also, they will be given signs to post in store windows, showing that they are participants in this “shop local” effort.

Businesses must belong to the business association to participate, and they must contact the business association by May 20 if they want to be part of this effort. To join, members should email the business association at info@shelburnefalls.com

Last June, Shelburne Falls was the setting for a coming-of-age Hollywood film called “Labor Day,” starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. That film was directed by Jason Reitman and is expected to be released for distribution this year. The movie was about an unhappy single-mom and her 13-year-old son in a New Hampshire mill town. It was set in the 1980s, and so the Shelburne Falls storefronts shown in the film were given 1980s “makeovers,” and the actors wore vintage clothing. The village temporarily became “Holton Mills,” with fake road signs to go with it.

This June, Warner Bros. will be filming scenes for “The Judge,” which stars Robert Downey Jr., Vera Farmiga, Leighton Meester, Robert Duvall, Vincent D’Onofrio and others. The plot is about a successful lawyer who goes to his hometown for his mother’s funeral only to discover that his estranged father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder.

A Warner Bros. production office has been set up on Bridge Street, and filming is expected to start in June.

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