Get ready, millennials: The two-week filming of action scenes for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2” starts Monday.
Speeding cars, a fabricated garbage truck and whirling helicopters will be filmed along the Kensington Expressway, between the Scajaquada Expressway and Elm Street.
The Paramount Pictures movie could be the most expensive action scenes ever filmed in Buffalo, dropping between $7 million and $9 million into the local economy. It also will cause the most traffic disruption.
Fans of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael are raising a collective “Cowabunga!”
“I am losing my mind,” Joseph Raab said in anticipation of the filming.
The 28-year-old Lancaster resident sports a Ninja Turtle tattoo down his right arm and collects action figures and other paraphernalia from the popular franchise, including Build-A-Bear stuffed animals.
“My girlfriend sent me the Facebook link, and I was like, ‘This has to be a joke.’ This is too cool, especially for Buffalo, because we need this kind of exposure.”
The local filming, however, does not include cast members Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Tyler Perry or Cheektowaga native William Fichtner, or the Ninja Turtles themselves.
Raab grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series, the movies and comic books. So did Emil Novak Jr., whose father owns Queen City Bookstore. He also can’t wait for the filming.
“I’ve been a diehard fan all my life, and they’re still my childhood favorite,” Novak said.
The cartoon series debuted in 1987.
But it’s not just millennials who are excited.
Trisha and Scott Patronik’s 4-year-old son Ethan – who recently went to a Ninja Turtles-themed birthday party – is a fan, too.
“I tried to explain to Ethan that it’s only a movie, but he doesn’t understand the characters aren’t real. It’s fun, because he definitely thinks they’re coming to town,” said Trisha Patronik, of Orchard Park.
Filming movie stunts in Western New York is nothing new for Hollywood and independent films.
Stunt actors have jumped off the Michigan Street Bridge, been set on fire on the steps of Niagara Falls High School, raced down the Skyway and flipped over outside the Hotel @ the Lafayette.
“A lot of folks come here for the stunt work, because there is a look in Buffalo that sort of replicates New York City, and there is very little opportunity in New York to get clearance to do major – or even minor – stunts in that city,” said Tim Clark, the Buffalo Niagara Film Office commissioner.
The Ninja Turtles production appears to be the biggest in terms of economic return, the Buffalo Niagara Film Office said.
“This is probably the largest economic impact of a movie that I’ve seen in the City of Buffalo,” Clark said. “We’ve had them in the millions before, but this is a pretty high number.”
Nearly $2 million will be spent on hotel rooms alone.
The Ninja Turtles production has booked 3,337 total hotel room nights, Mayor Byron W. Brown noted. He also praised the studio’s local hiring.
Paramount is bringing in more than 200 people, from movie helicopter pilots to stunt coordinators, for the Ninja Turtle production.
The studio hired 150 people locally and will use about 150 vendors, from caterers to windshield repair shops. The Olmsted Center for Sight made 80 vests for the production.
“When you look at the economic impact, it’s like a major convention coming to town for two weeks, with many of the people staying before and after the filming,” Clark said.
Brown said he has worked with the film commission and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office to get more film work in Buffalo. The studio will be able to claim a 40 percent tax credit for labor costs, through legislation that passed in 2013 to encourage film production in upstate and Western New York.
Paramount Pictures has reached out to the surrounding East Side community, passing out flyers and holding a meeting April 16 at the Science Museum to discuss the filming.
“I have to give Paramount a lot of credit,” Brown said. “They are clearly a class act. The experience with them has been absolutely phenomenal.”
“Conversely, we try to make sure all of the productions that come into Buffalo have a tremendous experience, because it’s our belief that if they do, they will spread the word to others in the industry.”
But shooting nighttime scenes on a major thoroughfare will cause longer travel times for motorists.
There will be alternative routes to Route 33 in both directions from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through May 17, with the lone exception of May 10.
The Kensington Expressway will be affected between Route 198 and the downtown Elm Street and Oak Street arterials.
Posted detours will lead motorists eastbound to Genesee Street to Harlem Road, Route 240. Westbound drivers will be directed to use Delaware Avenue, Route 384, or Harlem Road, Route 240, to Genesee Street.
Work zone traffic speeds will be applied, so motorists caught speeding will face doubled fines.
After Paramount picked the expressway for filming, Clark approached the state Department of Transportation for its permission. The department closed the Skyway in 2013 for four hours to shoot an episode of “Top Gear.”
“They said there was no precedent for closing the 33 in both directions, so we want to make sure it’s done safely,” Clark said.
The City of Buffalo also signed on, and Clark said Brown instructed the public works, police and fire departments to cooperate.
That led to meetings among various agencies on the best way to reroute traffic, including emergency vehicles, without causing unnecessary congestion in neighborhoods. The city picked the detour routes.
About a dozen police officers are expected to work overtime to block five on-ramps and to monitor key intersections where traffic could back up.
“The police said it would require a lot of cops and a lot of cost, and Paramount said they’d gladly pay for it,” Clark said.
The film scenes were almost shot in another upstate city.
Paramount Pictures contacted the Buffalo Niagara Film Office in December about filming in Buffalo. A location scout later evaluated Interstate 190, the Skyway and Niagara Falls’ Robert Moses Parkway and LaSalle Extension. But in late February, the studio notified Clark that it selected Albany.
But the studio rescinded that decision in March, after the studio learned it was supposed to film its highway scenes alongside a construction crew.
When the studio called Clark again, he steered the conversation to the Kensington Expressway and the scout liked what he saw.
“Cinematically, it’s a very, very nice shot,” Clark said. “The area between the 198 and the Science Museum rises from this canyon to reveal the skyline of the city. I think they saw in this section something they could really work with.”
Residents are being discouraged from watching the filming because of safety concerns. Buffalo police and private security are expected to limit access.
The security is prompted by concerns over the potential for people being struck by metal and other debris from the staged crashes, and the dirt and debris that can be kicked up by a helicopter at low levels.
The pedestrian overpass over the Kensington Expressway between East Ferry Street and Delavan Avenue, which would be closest to the action, will likely be closed for that reason, Clark said.
Besides, the action scenes will be boring to watch, Clark said.
“In a movie, the moviegoer sees this continual action scene, but in the end it’s all pieced together,” he said.
“Shooting a movie like this is very often like watching paint dry,” Clark said. “It takes forever to set these shots up, and by the time they shoot a scene, which could maybe take 10 minutes to shoot, it could take another two hours to reshoot another take. It’s not like it’s going to be continual action.”
The stunt drivers are expected to be in spandex-like motion capture suits, allowing Paramount artists to later insert the Ninja Turtles’ costumes.
Raab said it’s okay if he doesn’t get to watch the filming.
“I knew I wouldn’t see the turtles walking around, and just the fact that part of this movie is taking place in my hometown is really nice to see,” he said.
Ninja Turtles fan Sean Smith said he lives near the portion of Route 33 being closed off and that it was exciting to have the movie shot in Buffalo, even if he won’t see the filming.
“It’s still a cool thing because you’re going to watch the movie and think, ‘Hey, I live right there and see that every day.’ It shines a little light on the city.”