Clay Gilbert of Black Hand Coffee served between 40 and 50specialty drinks per day to the Lincoln film crew. Photo by Isaac Harrell
The call came in at 2 p.m. to Ettamae's Café, asking for five dinner entrées. Ordinarily, the Jackson Ward restaurant wouldn't be able to accommodate such a request in mid-afternoon, but this was Kate Capshaw's assistant on the phone.
Capshaw and her husband, otherwise known as director Steven Spielberg, wished to order dinner for their flight by private jet, which was leaving in mere hours from Richmond International Airport. So Laura Morand Bailey and her brother, chef Matthew Morand, made it work. Capshaw's assistant — "the most coiffed, most stressed-out human being," according to Bailey — arrived that afternoon to pick up the meals. She's not sure how the filmmaker heard about her Southern-cooking restaurant, although it could have been through praise by actor David Strathairn or maybe a recent mention in the New York Times. Hey, that's show biz.
Richmond reaps $35 million from Lincoln filming
The bills are still being calculated and paid, but the Virginia Film Office estimates that the local filming of the Lincoln movie will reap $35 million for the Richmond region. The final figure is expected to be announced this month. Hotels, restaurants, local actors, property rentals and food all enter that total, but the film could produce intangible benefits as well, particularly in establishing the city and surrounding localities as a hospitable environment for moviemakers.
Rita McClenny, director of the Virginia Film Office and vice president for film and operations for the Virginia Tourism Corp., says that feedback from Spielberg, who directed the film based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals, was "very positive. He told [film office location manager] Andy Edmunds he would be back."
Spielberg filmed parts of Minority Report and War of the Worlds elsewhere in Virginia, and he came to Richmond last fall to check out our historic vistas.
Gov. Bob McDonnell's $3.5 million in incentives (funded by Virginia taxpayers) plus $1.1 million in in-kind contributions also helped lure the movie here, a decision that prompted some grumbling, given how tight the state budget has been for the past few years. Nonetheless, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, is also a supporter of filmmaking in Virginia, along with offering incentives.
"We think we've certainly demonstrated that filmmaking creates jobs," McClenny says. Some businesses create temporary employment in response to movie contracts — positions that can become permanent, she says. Also, if the state wins contracts for five or six movies a year, local film-crew workers will be able to maintain their careers here in the state. Competition, especially with New York and California trying to keep projects in their states, is steep. Scouting for the Lincoln project began in 2003, and Spielberg reportedly considered Georgia before deciding to film here and in Petersburg. The film is scheduled for release in December.
Film employs 3,000 extras and 40 horses
The Lincoln movie brought about 400 people from out of town, from actors to crew members, and they stayed at four hotels McClenny is aware of (among them The Jefferson and the downtown Crowne Plaza), plus corporate housing and private homes. About 3,000 extras, many from Richmond and surrounding areas, were hired, and the Lincoln production office was open from June 2011 through the end of January.
Aside from people, the film used about 40 horses, many of which were from Virginia. The head animal wrangler, Doug Sloan, and wardrobe chief Joanna Johnston are both from here.
The Jefferson often hosts high-profile guests when they're on scouting trips or longer stays. Spokeswoman Jennifer Crisp wouldn't say exactly how many people in the crew and cast stayed at the hotel during the Lincoln shoot, but she did note that The Jefferson encountered a "higher volume than usual" this past fall, and other businesses like dry cleaners, clothing shops and chauffeuring services received trickle-down benefits.
"Any time there's a film crew in Richmond, we've felt some impact," Crisp says, noting that the elegance of The Jefferson may come as a welcome surprise to some from Hollywood.
Catering services came from outside the state, because feeding more than 500 people a day on a film set requires a large mobile kitchen that costs more than $1 million; McClenny says no one in the state owns such a truck.
However, Black Hand Coffee came from the Fan, serving tea (purchased from Carytown Tea), lattes and espressos three days a week to crew members, from the end of September to the beginning of December.
Restaurants get moment in the spotlight
Filming moved around a fair amount — from the AMF Bowling warehouse in Mechanicsville, where many sets were built, to the Virginia State Capitol, to downtown Petersburg and Goochland County. Starbucks isn't exactly an option when you're standing in a rural field, notes Clay Gilbert, Black Hand's owner and president. The job amounted to about 15 percent to 20 percent of the shop's income for 2011, and the experience has led to other movie catering jobs, including a film shoot in Williamsburg. Lincoln, Gilbert says, was "big time."
Bailey, who delivered pie and cake (including a raspberry-and-walnut pie for Spielberg), says that the film didn't make a big difference to her bottom line, but she appreciates the buzz produced by serving food to famous people.
Many other restaurants — among them Arcadia, Can Can Brasserie, the Hill Café, Mamma 'Zu and Lift — also got a moment in the spotlight after an actor visited. It's hard to tell how much that sort of exposure can help a business. But at the very least, it gives a restaurateur a little boost of confidence and, in the case of Stuzzi's owner Peter Caserta, a grip-and-grin photo with actor James Spader.
Despite being an important picture in terms of star wattage and prestige, Lincoln does not top Virginia's list of moneymaking film ventures. That title goes to John Adams, the 2008 HBO miniseries filmed here and elsewhere in the state. As a seven-part series, it required five months of filming, and Virginia earned about $80 million from production. McClenny says that in terms of time, personnel and budget, John Adams equaled two movies.
At the moment, the film office is negotiating contracts for more TV and film projects: nine active prospects, to be exact. "Stay tuned," McClenny says.