Gone Girl: Hollywood leaves a positive impact on Cape
Missouri native Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel of the same title takes place in the fictional river town of North Carthage and tells the story of the media frenzy after a man’s wife goes missing. When the book was adapted for film, Academy Award-winning director David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fight Club, and The Social Network) and his producing partner Cean Chaffin looked to Cape Girardeau as their fictional town, and Cape was more than ready to welcome them.
Fincher and Chaffin are based in Los Angeles, so they relied on local sources to organize the filming in the City of Roses. Dr. Jim Dufek, professor of mass media for Southeast Missouri State University, began meeting with 20th Century Fox producers in July 2013 to discuss the logistics of filming portions of Gone Girl in Cape Girardeau. He was tasked with helping provide location photos and coordinating among the producers and the city government.
What was originally scheduled to be a three week stay for the cast and crew turned into six weeks.
“We tried to extend a great amount of graciousness to the filmmakers, and they have returned that 110 percent,” Dufek says. “The production company has come in and tried to keep everything local, from food to set dressing to hiring local cast and extras. They’ve really embraced Cape Girardeau and have been bringing a great buzz back to the city.”
In the months leading up to the shoot, the production company held open auditions at the Rose Theater at Southeast Missouri State University and hired hundreds of extras. Some audition seekers drove from Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, and Oklahoma.
“We had folks driving from hours away to audition for the film, so we held auditions for longer than we had intended to allow them all to audition,” Dufek says. “They also tried to keep everything local and hired video production students from SEMO to work on the set. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids to work on a professional film production and see quality work. And seeing how it’s done makes you appreciate good quality. These kids can also put this on a résumé.”
A big budget film like Gone Girl can spend millions of dollars in one location city. 20th Century Fox hired local crew members from St. Louis and the surrounding areas, purchased needed items from local vendors, spruced up a downtown building, and used local homes as sets. The money spent will be felt by the local businesses for some time to come.
According to the residents, memberships rapidly increased at the gym where the film’s star Ben Affleck chose to do his daily workouts, and sales shot up at Andy’s Frozen Custard, a spot Affleck and Fincher frequented. Celebrity sightings were common and were often shared on social media; the stars were gracious and posed with many fans.
“These guys are used to hiding from paparazzi, so to have people just want to take their picture with them makes them happy,” says Chaffin, one of the producers. “They love their fans and appreciate the privacy they have been given in Cape Girardeau.”
The Local Impact
As the Regional Manager for Drury Southwest, Randy Klugee worked with the filmmakers to accommodate the cast and crew’s need for hotel rooms. The film’s crew came in early September of 2013 and needed several hundred rooms, nearly filling several of the hotels Drury operates in Cape Girardeau. Filmmakers also chose the ballroom of the Drury Lodge hotel to shoot several scenes and used other smaller rooms for makeup and costumes.
“We reached out and made the connections with the production and figured out a way to make it work,” Klugee says. “The important thing to remember was that every customer, every single night, is taken care of, high profile or not. This creates good word of mouth, and we had a great experience with the production and would welcome them back.”
Jim Rust was also pleased with the business he conducted with the production company.
“They were delightful to work with,” says Rust, owner of RM Coco, a decorative fabric store for residential and commercial decorating. “We absolutely loved them shopping with us. They were very nice and easy to deal with, and we would do it again.” Some of Rust’s employees were even used as extras. But beyond Drury and RM Coco, many local antique stores and grocery stores saw purchases from the production company.
Schnucks grocery store also received about $10,000 in business from sandwiches, soda, water and other small item purchases that were used to feed the crew for a few days.
“They were great people to do business with,” says Dennis Marche, manager of Schnucks. “We all had a local understanding that we would do what we could to help out the production, and they were wonderful to work with.”
Raising Cape Girardeau’s Public Profile
State Representative Kathy Swan, a Republican from Cape Girardeau, saw nothing but advantages.
“We are seeing more tourism because this film is raising the awareness of the community,” Swan says. “People have come to Cape and spent money on food to eat and gas for their cars. This has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for the city, and I’ve not heard one negative thing about the filming. They came in and made sure they left everything in a better condition than when they came here. We’d welcome them back in a heartbeat.”
Chuck Martin with the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitor’s Bureau felt the same way.
“When a movie films in the community, you have a double benefit,” Martin says. “On the front end, you have millions in positive economic impact for the city with money being spent at hotels and shops. On the back end, if the movie is successful, you can pounce on it by showcasing the parts of the city that were used for the film. We are planning a driving tour through the city to showcase filming locations.”
Martin worked with the producers to arrange their time in Cape Girardeau and was thrilled when the production team decided to extend their stay in the city. Martin was also with the convention and vistor’s bureau when Killshot—a thriller starring Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, and Thomas Jane— was filmed in 2007.
“Killshot was much smaller scale than Gone Girl, but it still generated close to $750,000 for the Cape economy,” Martin says. “We are never going to turn something like that away just because it’s a smaller production. It’s always a positive impact for the Cape economy, and it’s just not an everyday experience to see a movie being made in your town. It’s very exciting.”
City leaders have decided to host a premier event when the film debuts in October 2014. Representatives from the City of Cape Girardeau, the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Old Town Cape, Southeast Missouri State University, Wehrenberg Cape West Cinema, and Isle Casino Cape Girardeau created a committee to plan an event for the October 3 release. They hope to premier the movie on as many screens as possible, so the community can have an opportunity to see their city, as well as friends and neighbors, on the silver screen.
Cape residents will talk for years of the weeks that Hollywood came to the River City and made magic on its streets. And of course, the city would welcome them back with open arms.