In the last scene of the Hollywood film noir classic “Sunset Boulevard,” Gloria Swanson, playing self-absorbed actress Norma Desmond, looks straight into the camera and says, “Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
That must have been akin to what Mary Jane Reed, owner of G.J. Ford Bookshop on St. Simons Island was thinking when she received a call from producers of an upcoming film letting her know her shop had been chosen to be featured in an upcoming movie.
Producers from the cable channel INSP contacted Reed about the upcoming film, “Christmas on the Coast.” Reed initially thought they were joking.
“Your store is the perfect location to recreate an intimate Manhattan bookstore setting,” said film producer Jason White.
He was right. All it took was a little “Hollywood magic” to transform the bookshop, which is in The Shops at Sea Island on St. Simons Island, into a New York bookstore during the Christmas season, complete with holiday decorations.
INSP Films, formerly Inspiration Films, shot its feature movie “Christmas on the Coast” in locations throughout the Golden Isles in March. More than 30 INSP crewmembers made St. Simons Island their home during the process, and more than 75 residents were cast as extras in the film. The production company also filmed in the St. Simons Pier Village, Brunswick and Darien.
The Charlotte, N.C.-based film company chose the Golden Isles as the setting to tell the story of Dru Cassadine, a young writer suffering from “writer’s block,” who leaves New York City to return to her fictional hometown of Harbor Pointe in Coastal Georgia in hope of regaining her creative “mojo.” With her return to the South, she not only recaptures her creativity, but also rediscovers the importance of her roots in the Coastal South.
In the movie, G.J. Ford Bookshop serves as the setting to bridge the location gap from New York City to South Georgia for the movie’s theme. Since its founding in 1998, stepping foot into the bookstore is like taking a step back in time, before big-box booksellers became a dominant force in the market.
Reed said the crew of 30 showed up on a Sunday morning and pretty much took over by moving the entire store around.
“It was hectic, but because the store was closed it did not interrupt sales or operations,” she said. “The crew actually purchased quite a few books, so we actually did some business on a day when we would not have — on a Sunday.”
The day was chaotic, but fun, she said.
“It was rather entertaining to watch the film crew move my store around, promising to put everything back exactly as they originally found it,” Reed said. “With over 40 crew, actors and extras in the store at any given time, the place was swarming with people like we have never seen. It was fun to watch.”
Reed, who is celebrating her 22nd year in business, said having her bookstore chosen to be a part of the movie was exciting. In fact, the film underscores her latest branding campaign, “Nothing Reads Like a Real Book,” which she said hits the right notes with what her customers want — real books, from a real independent bookseller.
Back to the film. If Hollywood comes calling again, would she do an encore?
“We would absolutely do it again,” Reed said. “The crew was polite and very respectful of the property. They tried to remember how to put everything back in place, but since that was impossible, we had to do some of that ourselves. But it wasn’t a big deal.”