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Old Quincy High’s last starring role

By Jessica Bartlett
Globe Correspondent / February 17, 2011

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When School Committee member JoAnn Bragg first heard that a movie might be filmed at a Quincy school, she laughed. “I was contacted by the location agent, and I thought it was a joke. He said, ‘How would you like to make a movie? This is Columbia Pictures calling,’ ” Bragg said.

But two weeks, a few phone calls, and a signed contract later, the old Quincy High School was named the filming site for the Kevin James action/comedy “Here Comes the Boom,” and according to some, the timing couldn’t have been better.

“This should bring a lot of money into the local economy in the upcoming months,” said Mark Carey, executive director of the Quincy Film Bureau. “It’s unexpected revenue — never budgeted, which is why it’s cool.”

According to City Solicitor Jim Timmins, the school was perfect for the shoot. The crumbling building fits the setting of an ailing school community, and the vacant classrooms are ideal to set up shop.

The renting fees for the school alone will bring $80,000 to the Quincy Public Schools’ music program, Timmins said. And the flick will bring cash to local businesses.

According to Carey, when Hollywood comes to Massachusetts, it’s spend big or stay home.

“We’re talking hundreds of people coming in here and shooting in a very short period of time,” said Carey, also codirector of the Quincy Chamber of Commerce and executive director of Discover Quincy. “And they are all eating in our restaurants, staying at our hotels, shopping in our retail stores. So it does pump money into the local economy that was completely unexpected.”

Not only will the old high school be used for interior school shots, Quincy will be the backdrop for most of the film’s action. Many of the two dozen other scenes for the movie are to be shot in the city, including one at Quincy Medical Center. In addition, production offices set up on site mean the crew will be stationed within the municipality.

“Every scene in a movie has a specific want or need, and we tried to vie for it,” Carey said. “We tell them what we have, show them what we have, and believe me, they are very, very grateful.”

It is partially this flexibility that helped Quincy garner the movie. With the studio set to decide between Quincy and Everett high schools, Quincy officials knew they had to act fast.

“We were able to win that negotiation. We moved quickly on it and were accommodating and had a pretty good plan,” Timmins said. “It seems like an interesting project, and it will increase the visibility of the city.”

It’s a process that was greatly aided by the Quincy Film Bureau, an organization formed by Mayor Thomas Koch in 2008 to help the city be more film-friendly.

“I think any time you’re talking about economic investment, it’s a priority for the mayor,” said mayoral spokesman Christopher Walker.

In the past three years, the film bureau says, movie-making has brought a quarter-million dollars to the local economy, and the requests just keep on coming.

“We get a call every single week from location managers for different projects,” Carey said. “We are the perfect example of how we are benefiting from this industry.”

Even before the bureau existed, Carey had helped Hollywood navigate through the city bureaucracy for such films as “The Departed.’’ The success of that movie helped spur the creation of the bureau, which has seen increasing activity of late.

Director Seth MacFarlane, for example, best known for creating “Family Guy,’’ has been scoping out the city to shoot some scenes in May, Carey said, and a deal could be completed in the next few weeks.

For “Here Comes the Boom,’’ the city quickly came to an agreement on a soon-to-be-demolished building that still had the heat and electricity on, he said.

According to Carey, it’s about being flexible and accommodating. Film companies want to come in, shoot quickly, and leave. In short, “they just want to cut through a lot of the red tape,” Carey said. “And there will always be red tape.” It usually involves such issues as building permits, parking, and public works authorizations, but Quincy had a unique problem.

“Our primary concern is to mitigate disruption at the current Quincy High,’’ which is adjacent to the old Quincy High, “and make sure it wouldn’t be a major distraction for the kids,” Walker said. “We received a level of assurance from Columbia that any disruption would be minimized, as they will only be using the interior of the building at all times. So we don’t expect noise or sightseeing distractions outside of Quincy High at all.”

Already, moving vans have started lumbering down Coddington Street, unloading massive black trunks into the quiet, aging structure.

While the movie’s contract lasts from now until June, demolition will continue as planned during the summer months, Quincy officials say.

“[Filming] should be done by June, we’ve indicated that it will be done by June, and we’ve indicated that this summer the building will go down,” Koch told the School Committee at a meeting last week.

But long after its demise, the school will be spotlighted within the South Shore, adding to the tally of such Quincy films as “The Company Men,’’ “Gone Baby Gone,’’ and “The Invention of Lying.’’

“The mayor had vision and foresight, and he thought [bringing films to Quincy] was a good idea,” Carey said. “Other folks laughed me off. You know — ‘Quincy, what are you doing with a film bureau?’ But a couple years later, we have another film coming through. It’s really exciting.”

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@gmail.com.

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