It’s crazy-serial-killer-in-the-woods time of year in New Hampshire.
You might not know it - and you perhaps should tell your kids if they’re at summer camp - but right now location scouts are scouring Granite State lakes and campgrounds for the picture perfect backdrop for movies, TV shows, and commercials...and we’re in the thick of horror film season.
We checked with Matt Newton of the NH Film and Television Office to tell us some things we didn’t know about how Hollywood finds its way to New Hampshire towns from Hollis to Hudson to Hanover.
1. More than 500 N.H. companies or contractors are employed in film in some way.
Their services include everything from hair and make-up, gaffers and lighting, sound production, special effects, catering, limo service, payroll, and security.
2. You don’t need a permit to film in N.H.
Unlike some big cities where filming requires big-time logistical coordination, a production company can just bring a camera to NH and go. The state doesn’t require any special licenses to film; however, things like closing off a street might need local permits for blocking traffic and the like. There’s one exception in the state and that’s Portsmouth, the only city that requires a special filming permit.
3. We didn’t pass the audition.
The people who actually make the decisions about where to shoot, the location scouts, are always looking for different places to use as backdrops. Just like an acting audition, sometimes the director thinks New Hampshire is just not right for the part.
“Star Trek” considered our granite quarries and “Transformers” considered the nuclear plant in Seabrook, but those filmmakers ultimately went “in another direction.”
4. N.H. is independent film-friendly.
The lion’s share of movies shot in NH are little independent films, many looking to keep production costs down. These include pix like “In Your Eyes,” “Love Comes Lately,” and “Live Free or Die.” All three were shot in Claremont.
5. Locals get into the action.
The average Granite Stater can easily get into a film production, usually as an extra. The scene in “Jumanji” in which CGI elephants crush cars in Keene’s Central Square was filled with local resident fleeing the stampede.
While shooting a car chase for “Live Free or Die,” producers nixed using stunt men in favor of the Claremont police officers who’d been providing traffic service for the crew.
6. The most requested and popular N.H. shots are very brief.
The most common filming in the state contains almost no action at all. Movies need exterior “establishing” shots to illustrate where a scene is taking place. Location scouts want mountains. They want lakes. They want covered bridges. Fortunately, New Hampshire has all of those things.
Crews love exterior shots of white-steepled churches, but the most popular locations are cabins on a lake in August. They’re a staple in low budget horror films, like “Slew Hampshire.”
7. The most unique N.H. filming location?
There’s two miles of unused train track in Claremont available for rent. You can even rent the train.
8. They used a stand-in – for our state.
Even though many big budget films are set in New Hampshire, primary filming has historically taken place elsewhere – often for budgetary reasons. Some of the films that would have been right at home include “Lolita,” “What about Bob?” “To Die For,” and “The Hotel New Hampshire,” none of which filmed here.
Notable exceptions include “On Golden Pond,” “Our Town,” “Jumanji,” “Return of the Secaucus Seven,” and “A Separate Peace.” Others films with New Hampshire playing cameo roles are “Peyton Place,” “The Last Detail,” and the 1968 version of “The Thomas Crown Affair.”
9. If Hollywood won’t come to N.H…
New Hampshire will go to Hollywood. The state often sends items like local advertising posters, newspapers, or microbrews to bring that New Hampshire feel to “The West Wing” or, most recently, to make Walter White’s hideaway more realistic on “Breaking Bad.”
The N.H. Film Office even has its own stack of state license plates to issue to cars that are supposedly driving on our roads.
And, for more information about NH's role in film, you can listen to Word of Mouth's full interview with the New Hampshire Film and Television Office's Matt Newton here.