SEASIDE - The quiet township of Seaside is not so quiet anymore. This tranquil Walton County community, with its tin-roofed houses, brick streets and signs that plead "Thou shalt not park here," has been transformed for the filming of Paramount Pictures' The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey. The cameras are set to roll on Monday.
Over the past few months, construction workers - or prop makers as some prefer to be called - have been busy building facades of a bank and an insurance company, painting plastic bushes and nailing down signs declaring the place to be the perfect little community of Seahaven Island.
There's the city bus stop, the City News stand, the Seahaven Island Elementary School, and a very large PARKING sign that is very uncharacteristic of this real city that Hollywood is invading.
On Friday, tourists were allowed to walk freely around the site, at times hesitant for fear of trespassing. But they were reassured it was OK as painters and carpenters waved them through. The business people in Seaside are relishing the boost in business at this usually slow time of year.
"There has been a lot of interest," said Charlie Modica Jr., co-owner of the Modica Market grocery store in downtown Seaside. "It's been great."
He said the Paramount crew has gone overboard to make the merchants happy. On Friday night, managers of area businesses were invited to a kick-off party at the Red Bar.
Linda Boswell of Patchouli's bath and body shop is thrilled to have Paramount in town.
"We think it's great," she said. "After the hurricane last year it is really a blessing that they are here. We have had a lot of business from the location and production crew."
Also, the producers decided to use the names of area merchants, such as Modica and Fernleigh Arts & Antiques, on bogus advertisements that line a walkway leading into Ruskin Place.
"That is awesome," Modica said with a smile. "They did that for us out of the kindness of their hearts."
At the end of the walkway is a three-story facade of an insurance company named Seahaven Life & Casualty, where Carrey's character works. The building looks real, but behind it there is nothing but scaffolding.
Jim Carrey will play a man whose entire life, without his knowledge, is the subject of the longest-running TV show in history. He is famous all over the world, but he is oblivious to his fame. All the people in his life are actors. There are no real people in his life.
The $50 million film also stars Laura Linney (Congo) and Dennis Hopper, as the television producer who created this world of fantasy.
The film is directed by acclaimed Dead Poet's Society director Peter Weir; the executive director is Ed Feldman, who also produced Witness, The Jungle Book and Forever Young.
Jim Carrey has already been spotted around town posing for publicity pictures, including one such pose in a graduation cap & gown.
Filming will also take place in various sites around Panama City, including interiors in a soundstage that has been built in an empty warehouse.
The film will be a major boost to the local economy.
"Under normal conditions, it costs about $148 per minute to shoot a feature film," said Dawn Rinehart, Okaloosa Film Commission liaison. "A major portion, perhaps as much as 50 percent, goes back into the local economy."
That figure could exceed
$13 million, depending on production schedules.