Friday Night Lights films in Brownsville, SPI - Brownsville Herald: News

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Friday Night Lights films in Brownsville, SPI

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Posted: Monday, September 17, 2007 12:00 am

A film production unit was in Brownsville and South Padre Island last week to shoot scenes for Friday Night Lights, an NBC drama centering on a fictional Texas high school football team.

Cast and crew spent a couple of days filming in Cameron County parks on the Island, said assistant county parks director Joe Vega, who watched some of the action.

“We’re glad they are going to feature our beautiful beaches on their show, even though (this particular episode) is supposed to be set in Mexico,” he said.

Vega said he was excited companies are filming in the Laguna Madre area.

“It gives us national exposure,” he said. “Also, they hire local help, stay at local hotels and eat in local restaurants.”

The Friday Night Lights group stayed at the Radisson while filming on the Island.

“They increased our occupancy by about 60 to 70 percent over normal for this time of year,” said Daniel Salazar, the hotel’s assistant manager. “Ordinarily, we’re only at about 30 percent occupancy.”

The production crews arrived last Sunday, he said.

Austinite John Patterson, locations manager for the series, said his group includes more than 80 people.

“We used some local people in the taping, too,” he said.

Three of the show’s stars came with the crew: Taylor Kitch, Scott Porter and Minka Kelly.

“Ninety-five percent of our crew are Texans,” said Patterson, a graduate of the University of Texas. “It’s possible we may shoot some more sequences here in Texas.”

On Thursday afternoon, the group was shooting in downtown Brownsville at Market Square and 11th Street. The area was cordoned off with police cars.

Market Square had been converted into a scene from Mexico. Signs were in Spanish, the street was lined with vendors in small booths and pushcarts, and the auto license plates were from Mexico.

A hundred extras, most of them locals, milled around the square. Actors dressed like Mexican policemen stood in the street, directing both pedestrian and automobile traffic. An old pickup truck at one end of the street had the hood up and was equipped with a device rigged to shoot steam into the air on cue.

Patterson stood away from the action, chatting with a young Brownsville policeman.

“We’re really glad you picked Brownsville for a location,” the cop told him. “We hope you come back often.”

“We’ve certainly enjoyed the hospitality,” Patterson said. “Our people have made this week one big South Padre party. We hate to have to move on.”

The show’s producer-director, Jeffrey Reiner, stood on the sidewalk observing the controlled chaos around the square.

“No relation to Rob Reiner,” he said. “That’s the first thing everybody asks me.”

Reiner said it took about an hour and a half to convert the square into a realistic Mexico set.

“You have to be really observant,” he said. “The least little overlooked detail can destroy the illusion if your viewers spot it.”

He has worked with movies and TV shows all his adult life.

“I grew up with this stuff,” he said.

A siren sounded and somebody yelled, “Places!” Actors scrambled to get into position. Cameramen carrying video cameras moved toward their assigned vantage points.

“We’ll shoot this over and over again,” Patterson said. “Then the director will cut and splice and edit until he has exactly what he wants. With a scene involving this many people, we may spend three hours shooting to get only a few seconds of on-screen footage that will be used in the show.”

The cast and crew were scheduled to leave Friday for their next location, a small town near Abilene.

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