joesler home plays lead role in indie film

2013-03-03T00:00:00Z joesler home plays lead role in indie filmDan Sorenson Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Editors note: This is the first in an occasional series on local homes that have taken a star turn on the big screen.

Don't plan on getting rich if Hollywood uses your home in a movie. If it does, you might meet a couple of stars, maybe. And you might have a unique filmed memento of the way someone else envisioned your home.

But you're probably not going to make a bunch of money.

Most of "Goats," a 2012 independently produced feature film starring David Duchovny and Vera Farmiga, was shot in and around Tucson. The home of the story's leading characters was played by Tucson Realtor Heidi Baldwin's home of 25 years, an inviting, hilltop Joesler in an older section of the Catalina Foothills.

Despite the big-name actors, Baldwin said she didn't get paid much - she won't say how much - for letting dozens of actors and crew, tons of equipment and a fleet of vehicles invade her beautiful old home and send her packing for a couple of weeks in early 2011.

It wasn't about the money for Baldwin.

"Financially it was no great shakes," Baldwin said. "But it was an independent film and I'm all for making independent films."

The movie never did much at the box office after getting dumped on by critics. It showed at The Loft Cinema in Tucson.

But the film's modest promotional budget, along with the lack of car chases, explosions and gore probably doomed it as much as anything.

It's the believable story of a quiet 15-year-old, Ellis (Graham Phillips), who is getting ready to leave for an East Coast prep school after growing up in Tucson taking care of Wendy, his self-absorbed, trust-funded, New Age seeker of a mother (Farmiga). Ellis got whatever life lessons he received from the goat-herding, pot-growing, stoner dude/botanist, Goat Man (Duchovny), who lives in their pool house and tends the yard.

The film probably has more loving shots of Tucson-area desert and mountains than anything that's been made here.

And the camera was kind to Baldwin's comfy old house and its inviting yard, too. If "Goats" had been a big success, Tucson's population might have doubled since its release.

Baldwin's Josias Joesler-designed home didn't find its way onto the screen in a conventional way.

Mark Poirier, the author of the novel that "Goats" is based upon, is a Tucsonan. Baldwin said Poirier told her that her home was exactly what he had in mind when he wrote the novel. He also wrote the screenplay.

And director Christopher Neil, a friend of a friend of Baldwin's, had been to the house years before, and unknown to her, decided it was the perfect place if the film ever got made. So, while a location scout was involved in the movie, the director came back to the first choice, Baldwin's house.

It was a surprise to Baldwin. "I got a call from the friend" about a location for 'Goats,'" Baldwin said. "I said, 'I can get you a house.'"

But she was told "No, I want your house," not her services as a real estate agent.

The less-than-fabulous location fee Baldwin alludes to is not unusual, according to a local professional.

Whether for Hollywood blockbusters, independent movies, commercials or web video clips, Tucson locations don't command as much money as homes in Los Angeles, said Tim Flood, a Tucson-based freelance location scout and sometime location manager who worked on "Goats."

Flood said rates vary greatly, but the day rate in Arizona might be "a few hundred bucks to shoot on somebody's land or a couple thousand to shoot in somebody's mansion. In L.A. it would be $20,000."

Partly that's because people in Los Angeles aren't especially impressed by having their property used in film.

Tucson people are usually easy to work with, and enthusiastic about being part of something involving a movie, says Flood.

But occasionally they are surprised when they learn the scale of what they signed on to allow.

Flood said part of his job is explaining what will happen if their property is chosen. And he also lays the groundwork by sending a mailer through a neighborhood association when shooting in a residential area.

Despite the advance preparations, a location manager can still be left with ruffled feathers to smooth.

"I've had people freak out when they (the crew) shoot later than they thought they would. And doing urban stuff, Downtown Tucson or neighborhood stuff, sometimes there are freak outs (because neighbors) want money because they feel inconvenienced."

Baldwin said she was a bit surprised by the size of the crew, number of vehicles and how much equipment was involved. But the filmmakers were in for a surprise, too.

Unfortunately, between the time the director and some producers came over to check out the property and discuss the specifics of shooting there, and their return to start filming a couple of weeks later, there was the great freeze of February 2011. Temperatures fell to 18 degrees two nights in a row.

When the crew returned to start work, Baldwin said they were shocked to find the lush vegetation - particularly her citrus trees and bougainvillaea - was nearly bare or withered. That wouldn't do, since one of the leading characters, Goat Man, was a gardener.

Baldwin said the crew set about visiting Tucson nurseries, coming back with leafy branches that they wired to the freeze-stunned plants to restore the lush look.

Since Baldwin moved out for the weeks the house was in use, she didn't have much first-hand experience with the filming.

But she heard about some of the proceedings from the neighbors, including how when one of Baldwin's hens was raising a ruckus while about to lay an egg during a take, someone from the crew would put a bucket over the noisy egg machine to silence her. An old Hollywood trick, it would seem.

Asked if she met Duchovny, the "X Files" and "Californication" star, she said, "I met them all. He was quiet. But the 'Weeds' guy (Justin Kirk), I loved him. He was more talkative."

But this wasn't about hanging out with Hollywood stars. Except for a visit during the beginning of the shoot, Baldwin said she cleared out and stayed gone during the shooting.

Flood said the best way to proceed for people who think their property might be good in a movie or other production is to contact the Tucson Film Office. The film office keeps photos of locations on file, he said.

He also has some of his own, and is occasionally contacted by people who track him down through film crew lists or film industry web sites. The odds of getting a single property in a movie, TV show or commercial are slim, however, because the requirements are usually very specific and every project involves a new search. Still, he said he keeps track of places that have promise.

"The reality of it is sometimes (a location) is used because I have a file that somebody sent me, or because it's something I scouted before. Sometimes those work out," Flood said.

"But usually what happens is that the whole process starts over again when there's a new job," he said. "It's not that those houses wouldn't be considered, but it's what the script calls for. Every job is specific. I have amazing places I know of that have never been used."

They didn't use all of Baldwin's house, at least not her favorite room. The backyard, pool and enclosed back porch are the property stars in the film.

No filming was ever done in the old Joesler's great room. Instead it was used to store an immense pile of equipment, which surprised Baldwin when she first saw it as filming was about to begin.

Overall, she was happy with the experience. When she came back, she mostly found that things had been put back in order.

Baldwin said she's still got a few repairs to make to plaster walls that were chipped or scuffed up by the giant electrical cords that snaked through her home during the shoot.

No big deal, Baldwin said. They paid her, after all - and they fixed most of the divots they made before they left.

She's got a personal memento in the film, too.

Baldwin said Farmiga wore some of her jewelry in the movie.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Home improvement video

More

Deals, offers & events

View more...

Want an organic skin care product that works? Call Paula at Sweet P's! (520) 909-1192

Our mission is to produce a superior Organic Skin Care Product…

Featured businesses

View more...