Except for puffs from the old steam engine and church bell chimes, all was quiet on the set at Arcade’s century-old train station. The extras, camera operator and director in brown fedora stood silent. The prince, looking like a toy soldier in a royal red sash, said something softly near the fuzzy black microphone’s midair perch. The pretty blond waitress listened with a querulous look.
She smiled. A kiss.
“And … cut!” said Dennis Burrell, the assistant director in ski cap and parka. “It’s all good.”
In the days before Mascot Pictures of Studio City, Calif., wrapped up its shoot of “Small Town Prince,” the old train was the setting for the climax of the romantic story about a European prince evading an arranged marriage with a trip to the States. By the final wrap party, the production process was a hit.
Spending by the film crew was estimated by the Buffalo Niagara Film Office at several hundred thousand dollars. This included meals and hiring about 20 local people to cater, handle lights and do makeup. Things went so well that Mascot wants to make another movie here.
“This is like an ultimate success story, a return customer,” said Rich Wall, the Film Office’s director of operations.
The last two weeks of shooting included scenes with a horse and carriage trotting through Knox Farm State Park, romance at the Old Orchard Inn’s lantern-lit walkway and meetings at the Colden Country Kitchen diner.
Actors warming themselves inside one of the train’s old Pullman cars between takes last week were impressed.
“It’s really beautiful around here. Aside from the blistering cold, it’s been great,” said Kirk Barker, the British actor playing the prince. “… I didn’t expect to find something as picturesque as this. The cold has been a challenge. When all the muscles in your face are frozen solid, it makes it difficult to enunciate properly.”
The cold setting gave the romantic story line a twist. “It has kind of a ‘Notting Hill’ meets ‘Fargo’ because of the location,” said Viva Bianca, the Australian actress playing the waitress and the prince’s love interest. “It’s arguably the prettiest, but coldest, shoot I’ve ever participated in,” she said. “I can’t feel my toes right now.”
The niceness of locals surprised her. When Bianca’s boyfriend needed a snow scraper, a shopkeeper gave him one for free. During a break at the cupcake bakery, staff members served the movie crew freshly pressed coffee. “People aren’t so friendly in L.A. and New York” Bianca said.
Before heading back to California, director Fred Ray went through raw footage and stills and liked how the movie was looking. The last scene, with the prince stepping off the train in snowy surroundings, was just the sort of thing “women would find romantic,” he said. Ray intends to come up with another story so he can use all the big locations he didn’t get to this time. He liked the emptiness of the Niagara Falls airport. It would be easy to film without interference from crowds. The columns at the Buffalo History Museum have potential, too.
But after all the hours he spent standing on icy sidewalks in the last couple of weeks, Ray said, he’ll wait before he comes back: “Once it warms up and the trees get leaves.”