Summer at Dog Dave's house

| 15 Feb 2012 | 08:45

Or how Hollywood, Rob Reiner and Morgan Freeman transformed a couple’s weekend home into a movie set, By Marilyn Hayden Greenwood Lake — It started with a simple phone call: Would you consider allowing a movie directed by Rob Reiner and starring Morgan Freeman to be filmed in you cottage on Greenwood Lake? It ended with a temporary change of ownership. Morgan Freeman, following the script, “moved in” for five weeks to spend his Summer at Dog Dave’s. What did it take to transform the cottage at the end of Windermere Avenue into a film set? A location manager, executive producer, production designer, art director, set decorator, charge scenics, scenic journeymen, set dressers, many carpenters, electricians and greens people. Of course, the counter/half wall in the kitchen had to be removed so that the cameras, cameramen, assistant director, director of photography, scene changers and actors - including the lead who needs to maneuver about in a motorized wheel chair - could do their jobs. None of this would be possible with that counter/half wall in the way. Sure. Take it away. It’s all in the name of making the unreal become real. In addition, the kitchen cabinet doors needed to be removed. They’re a shiny white that creates an unwanted reflection in the camera. For the same reason the remaining counter top had to be covered with woodlike contact paper. And a deeper brown contact paper covered the under-the-ink white doors. Wallpaper, paint and chair railing The roving eye of the camera is all seeing, even itty bitty details that can mess up an otherwise great scene. Then the living room needed to be covered in a soft yellow grass cloth. Texture is good under bright lights and plays well to the cameras. This new look created a need for the dining area and hall to be repainted in colors to blend in with the new living room. A bedroom, key to the movie, was also transformed with wallpaper, painting and the addition of chair railing. To complete the interior look of Dog Dave’s home, our furniture had to go and a scruffier lot brought in. They used some of our stuff: an Audubon print over the fireplace, a 1920s rustic country arm chair in the bedroom, some pottery on the dining area shelves, old tools and fishing rods scattered about and enough odds and ends to allow us to say, “Oh, look! That used to be in the garage.” In spite of these details, it’s not really our house for five weeks. Different curtains, blinds, shades, doors removed from one area and rehung in another all contribute to reminding us that Morgan Freeman has moved in to Dog Dave’s. And Mr. Freeman reminded us, too. “I like your house,” he said. “But it’s mine now.” 'Movie magic ignores our patio, fences and gardens’ Outside is equally transformed. An outdoor, open-sided porch is key to an opening scene. We don’t have an outside porch. Voila! We do now. To build the porch bushes and trees had to be removed. The finished porch looks as if it came with the house when it was built in the 1920s, Only one problem: It leaks. Pretty badly. What’s that old saying: It’s all done with mirrors? It looks so good and blends in so well with the house that it’s easy to forget that it’s only a set, after all. The best part The most dramatic change is the outside. Again, an important scene requires Morgan Freeman to pull up in his pick-up truck to the back of the house so the neighbors can see him the day he moves in. Again, not possible according to our layout. But movie magic ignores our patio, fences and garden and gives us a long gravel driveway. I won’t reveal all the trade secrets but will admit that it won’t be difficult to return the area to its original state. If we want them to. Because here is the best part: We can keep what we like. The inside paint and wallpaper is a keeper. The rest we’re still considering. For us it’s been a wonderful experience. The crew, from the top (Rob Reiner) down (to the interns handling crowd control) have been professional, efficient, conscientious and determined to create a first-class movie on a low budget ($5 million) while keeping those of us whose houses and properties have been “rented” for the occasion smiling through the disruption. We still have a week of filming and then the restoration of our property (the back lawn looks like a herd of buffalo have passed through), but already we’re sure we’d do it all again. In a heartbeat. Marilyn Hayden and her husband John Tracy have been staying at their main house in South Orange, N.J., while their weekend home has served as a movie set.