Hollywood and vines: ‘13 Reasons Why’ films in Sonoma
John, wearing a walkie-talkie emblazoned with 'Keeper of the Secrets,' was in no mood for chitchat, and scowled when he found a reporter underfoot. A staffer for the Netflix series on location in Sonoma this week, John was very, very good at keeping his mouth shut.
Was the small army swarming 1755 Napa Road filming the controversial television series '13 Reasons Why'? Crickets.
Did he know how long they would be shooting at this location? Nope.
Could the Index-Tribune gain some kind of access to the palatial grounds, where actors portraying angsty teens were said to be inside filming a party scene? If he'd been the mirthful sort, John might have laughed. Instead, he leveled a withering gaze that clearly meant 'no.'
For five days this week, Hollywood came to town, using a grand Italianate Sonoma mansion as a set. The 14,545-square-foot house set on 4.65 acres was a hive all week long, swarmed by actors, cameramen, set designers and security. They took over two empty lots nearby, too, filling them with parked cars, big rigs full of gear, portable toilets and a huge tent.
Permit Sonoma knew Netflix was coming. After all, they issued the $878 special event permit for the Napa Road location that allowed film crews to work between 8 and 2 a.m.
But the neighbors up and down Napa and Hyde roads were not informed, a fact that several of them found mildly annoying. Nixon Maloney, who lives at 1668 Napa Road, would have appreciated a heads-up that a major production was setting up next door.
'It would have been nice to have notice. Information is priceless,' Maloney said.
But the initial concerns Maloney had about fire danger were mitigated when a water tanker showed up to douse both empty fields. And the California Highway Patrol officer required by Permit Sonoma turned out to be an unexpected blessing. 'Having a cop out there has changed the traffic flow. People are doing 45 instead of 70. I love it!' Maloney told the Index-Tribune on the second day of the Netflix shoot.
Maloney was so pleased by the collateral benefits, in fact, that she delivered the CHP officer a bottle of chilled water. 'I told him, 'you can park here anytime, honey!''
The Hollywood business of shooting on location is fraught with everyday perils. There are snoopy journalists, star-struck fans and run-of-the-mill riff-raff to contend with. Unwanted attention is precisely why location scouts go to such pains to keep location shoots on the down low. Especially for a television show watched primarily by young people, whose fandom often tends to be exuberant.
Based on the 2007 young adult novel by Jay Asher, '13 Reasons Why' is predicated on a provocative plot. Hannah Baker, a student at fictional 'Liberty High School,' commits suicide after being bullied and shamed, and explains her 13 reasons why over the course of season one. Celebrated for its daring look into teenage mental health, the show was criticized by some psychologists for its potential contagion effect. In fact, according to a study published in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, suicides among kids age 10 to 17 jumped to a 19-year high in the month following the release of the first season, though the study's authors acknowledged that a causal link was unprovable.
The furor died down eventually, and the show proceeded with seasons two and three, often using locations around the North Bay to set scenes.
In Sebastapol, Analy High School stands in for the fictional Liberty High, earning the school district $60,000 over one month in 2016, and a reported $2,500 per day since. Much of the show's other filming is done on Mare Island, where Paramount Television — which inked a multi-picture deal with Netflix three years ago — has a warren of offices and sound stages.
While staffers refused to discuss how the huge house on Napa Road would figure into the show, the smart money was on a one-off party scene involving a large group of 'students,' many of whom were seen last week milling about the site, wardrobed and made-up.
The home, currently on the market for $12.25 million, has six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a nine-car garage, a pool with water features and mature gardens, a media room, several home offices, a kitchen with 'state of the art' appliances plus a 'wine facility,' and was built with more than 2,000 tons of concrete, 1,000 tons of steel and 110 slabs of granite.
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