An image downtown of Ladysmith is just one those uploaded to the INFilm website and reviewed by Paramount Pictures representatives prior to choosing the town for the new Sonic the Hedgehog movie. (Laura Leppard Photo)

Paramount budgets $7M for Sonic the Hedgehog movie shoot in ‘hero town’ Ladysmith

Paramount Pictures is budgeting upwards of $7-million for a film shoot later this year that will set a computer-generated hedgehog with supersonic speed loose on the streets of Ladysmith.

The animation/live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie brings the video game icon created by Sega in the early 90s to the big screen and is anticipated to be in theatres Nov. 19 of next year.

“We searched all over B.C. and have chosen Ladysmith as our hero town for our movie,” said Abraham Fraser, the location manager for the film.

Filming will take place starting in mid-September for somewhere in the range of eight to 11 days along First Avenue, between Roberts Street and Gatacre Street.

“For the majority of our filming we would require to close the block entirely…with the hopes of doing intermittent traffic control,” Fraser said, adding how there would be upwards of six days of shooting overnight.

The movie’s plot is about a small town coming together to help the sheriff save Sonic – a blue anthropomorphic hedgehog that can reach the speed of sound – from the government chasing after him.

“I think it will really bring the town together,” said Fraser of the high budget film featuring Ladysmith’s historic downtown.

Sonic the Hedgehog will be the feature film directorial debut for Jeff Fowler, who received an Oscar nod for Best Director in the Best Short Film, Animated Category in 2015 for Gopher Broke. He also did the visual effects for Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are.

It was announced late last month that actor James Marsden would also join the cast. Marsden’s acting bio includes roles in the Golden Globe-nominated musical film Hairspray, Disney’s Enchanted where he starred alongside Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey, as well as two X-Men films in which he played Scott Summers, aka Cyclops.

Starring alongside Marsden will be Tika Sumpter, who played Michelle Robinson in a romantic drama that recounts the first date between the former first lady and president Barack Obama.

Sumpter has also starred in the soap opera One Life to Live back in 2010 and teens might recognize her from the role of Raina Thorpe in Gossip Girl, or the musical drama Stomp the Yard: Homecoming.

As part of the Sonic the Hedgehog shoot, Bayview Framing is set to become the police station in the movie and the Top Drawer Consignment store next door will be transformed into a donut shop.

Other arrangements are being worked on with local businesses that also might agree to have their storefronts temporarily changed.

The Sonic film has budgeted $300,000 for any loss of business and recouping costs would involve filling out a form available through the Creative BC website.

“I certainly don’t feel that any small business should be funding any feature film and so if they’re losing money we have to compensate them for that,” Fraser said.

He’s met with about 80 per cent of the downtown businesses and called the majority of discussions “very positive.”

“Paramount can’t really afford that negative publicity. I don’t live on the island, but I have in the past, and I still look at all of B.C. as my backyard,” Fraser said, later adding “we certainly don’t want to walk away from the town with anyone feeling disgruntled.”

Upwards of 150 crew members are coming from Vancouver for the shoot and will be staying in local hotels, meaning the economic spin off has the potential to be huge for Ladysmith and the surrounding area.

The Sonic the Hedgehog movie also plans to shop local for food and other supplies as well as hire as many people from the Island as possible to fill everything from security to production assistant positions.

Vancouver Island North Film Commission’s (INFilm) Joan Miller said the decision to pick Ladysmith as the ‘hero town’ in the movie was a creative one that also benefits neighbouring communities.

“It’s a creative decision but what’s nice about this is that there are other locations that are benefiting from this,” Miller said. “The fact that we could put a bigger package together for them and we could find more than just one location was a real bonus as well so we are now doing our best to expand our services and support…”

One of those other locations is along Hwy. 19 between Qualicum Beach and Courtenay where a chase scene could be shot involving a pickup truck. Discussions are underway between the municipality, Comox Valley Regional District and provincial government.

Back here in Ladysmith, the largest unknown to be hammered out in the coming weeks will be where all the production vehicles involved with the film will be parked.

“Our big hair (and) makeup crews will be well off site,” Abraham said, suggesting Transfer Beach as a potential option being explored.

Other vehicles must be all kept on level ground meaning thoroughfares such as Roberts Street and Gatacre will be clear of the work trucks and generators.

Mayor Aaron Stone said it is important to recognize that Paramount is a major Hollywood production company and “Sonic the Hedgehog is like Sega’s Mario Brothers, so it’s the number one property that the Sega brand has.”

“It’s a high budget, live action, CGI… this is not a Sci-Fi Network, independent or Hallmark (Channel) movie production,” Stone said. “This is Paramount and it’s a big budget holiday action, family adventure type of movie.”

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