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Movie making on the Oregon Coast: "The Burning Plain" transforms popular coastal restaurant
Depoe Bay

by Dave Masko for The Portland Examiner

DepotBayDEPOE BAY, Oregon – Jon Hamlin learned a few things about Hollywood movie making during the filming of "The Burning Plain" at his coastal restaurant Tidal Raves. First, he was delighted that its star, Charlize Theron, really liked his cheesecake. Second, he discovered how serious movie making can be. And, third, he's "sure glad" to have taken the plunge and turned his restaurant into a film set."

I knew it would be difficult, but I soon realized that making a movie takes the same long hours as operating a restaurant," said Hamlin during a recent interview at his Tidal Raves Restaurant.

... Depoe Bay and Tidal Raves have long been a favorite coastal getaway for visitors from nearby Eugene, Salem and Portland.

In fact, on any given day in Depoe Bay, you will find more folks from Eugene than locals.

Still, Hamlin had his reservations about would mean to tie his restaurant up for nearly two weeks of filming this major Hollywood motion picture...

Tidal Raves as a film set

"I remembered Doug Hobart and his wife as customers," said Hamlin, "but I never thought they'd bring a movie to Depoe Bay; and our restaurant as possible set for this new film."

Hobart, who's been doing film set locations for Oregon's Office of Film and Television for the past 15 years, thought "Tidal Raves would be a perfect spot right away."

Hamlin and his wife concurred, and agreed to the deal that Hobart helped broker with the film's producers.

In fact, telling stories about the making of the movie is something he enjoys...

Depoe Bay's allure

Tidal Raves is known for its fine food and picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean right along Highway 101 in Depoe Bay.

In addition, this fishing village is part of Oregon's 362 miles of Pacific shoreline and all of it is being offered to film companies as perfect for film-making because of its rugged rock formations, rolling dunes, fishing ports, coastal towns and some of the most interesting and beautiful lighthouses in the world.

The Oregon Historical Society lists the earliest Oregon-made movie as the 1915 silent film classic, "Where Cowboy is King," and "The Burning Plain" as one of its most notable per its huge budget.

Other notable films made here include: "Sometimes A Great Notion," filmed in 1970 along the Siuslaw River in Florence and other locations in Newport and Toledo. The 1970 classic Jack Nicholson film "Five Easy Pieces" was filmed in a Florence restaurant, and scenes for the 1992 "Free Willy" and 1994 "Free Willy 2" was filmed along the central Oregon coast.

Popular films such as "Stand By Me," "Goonies," "Animal House," "The River Wild," and "Mr. Holland's Opus" were also filmed in Oregon.

All in all, the Oregon Film Office states that "movie-making in Oregon is big business" and counts Depoe Bay and other coastal locations as one of the jewels in its crown.

For example, Hobart noted how the view from inside Depoe Bay's Tidal Raves restaurant as being one of the most spectacular sights of the Pacific anywhere along the Oregon coast.

Overall, he said the roll of the Oregon Film Office is to "promote the production of film both indigenous and out of state productions in Oregon. And, the Depoe Bay has always been a good choice.

Hamlin said another reason why Tidal Raves was chosen is for the food. "We were hired to prepare all the food seen in the film. And everything had to be completely edible."

Moreover, Depoe Bay's harbor was used in a key scene during the filming of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" when Jack Nicholson commandeered a fishing boat for his fellow mental hospital patients. This 1975 Academy Award winning film is an adaptation of the 1962 novel of the same name by Oregonian Ken Kesey who, coincidently, had a summer home down the coast from Depoe Bay.

After viewing all possible choices for The Burning Plain, Hobart said the director, producer and production designer decided to fly in and take a look. "As I suspected, they loved Tidal Raves. And, with Jon and his wife being so open and nice, it worked out to be a perfect fit."...

The Burning Plain was Arriaga's first film as both a director and screenwriter. "It was his baby, and Guillermo was especially sensitive to where this film should be shot. And, he picked Oregon and Depoe Bay because it matched his script," explained Oregon casting director Diana Hammons who said the film employed about 50 locals as "extras."

Moreover, Hammons pointed to a scene near the restaurant where Theron's character would be tied to the rocks so not to plunge into the swirling waves below...

Other than Depoe Bay, the film crew also shot scenes up in Portland. Other filming was done in New Mexico because the two locations – with contrasting terrains – helped frame the storylines.

For the scenes filmed in Oregon and at Tidal Raves, cinematographer John Toll (who won back-to-back Oscars for his work on "Legends of the Fall" and "Braveheart") served as the chief director of photography.

It's no surprise that Toll used Tidal Raves bird's eye view of Depoe Bay's rocky outer bay during the movie.

Toll's filming of these Depoe Bay landmarks was not lost on movie critics who proclaimed the movie's Oregon scenes as both "dramatic" and "impressive." While Toll did not receive another Academy Award nomination, his work in Oregon was touted in Hollywood as some of the best nature filming of the year.

Depoe Bay location is also attractive to film makers because of the whales.

Hamlin remembers seeing whales "swimming in near the restaurant. We even watched them rub against barnacles on the rocks. It's known that Depoe Bay has its own pod of whales out there."

Of course, the film crew had heard all about the whales because of the local whale-watching charters that have earned Depoe Bay the nickname as the whale-watching capital of Oregon.

"Other than just weather talk -- because it rained a lot during the filming here -- we usually chatted about whale sightings," said Depoe Bay local and Burning Plain extra Jill Melhorn. "It was a trip to tell someone on the crew that we spotted a whale out there, and then see them running with the big movie cameras to catch them."

Although the film features few a few shots of Oregon based whales, Melhorn said another highlight for her was the enjoyment of watching the film crew photograph the two "spouting horns," that are known by locals as the natural blowholes in the rocks north of Depoe Bay's harbor entrance. "It was just funny to see them make such a big deal about our landmark," she added...

It's a wrap

With more than 300 feature films and television projects under its belt, the Oregon Film and Video Industry is touting "The Burning Plain" as yet another success story. However, it's everyday Oregonians who either serve as extras or even have their business turned into a film set who get to experience Hollywood film making up close.

"I'm really glad that we had the opportunity to experience the making of "The Burning Plain," he added. It was actually quit fun to be a fly on the wall."

Jeff Brieger, the Tidal Raves head chef who also appeared in the film as an extra, concurs with his boss. "Yea, it was fun to see all the food we made in the movie. We prepared everything from lobster tail and roasted quail to high-end deserts."...

As for the impact of the film on Tidal Raves, Hamlin just shrugs his shoulders about his restaurant achieving film immortality. "It can't hurt to have our place recognized in that way. It was just a lot of fun, and I'm glad we did it."

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