Vallejo Expends a Lot of Resources to Accommodate Paramount Pictures, But Local Business Owners Don't Mind

The city billed the Hollywood-based production company about $155,000 for more than 1,845 hours of police labor over the course of 2016 and 2017, records show.

The Vallejo Police Department spent close to 2,000 hours protecting Paramount Pictures film sets during the production of "13 Reasons Why" and the latest Transformers spinoff "Bumblebee," according to public records.

The city billed the Hollywood-based production company about $155,000 for more than 1,845 hours of police labor over the course of 2016, records show. Police officers diverted traffic away from the film sets and provided security services, according to Joanna Altman, assistant to the city manager. 

Altman said the invoices are direct reimbursements for resources the city expended during filming. The benefits of having film crews in the area come from the added economic activity caused by production, Altman said.

“It wasn’t an increase in revenue to us by any means,” Altman said, noting that the studio had their debts. “As for the ancillary support to the community, they are here shopping, purchasing locally and staying in hotels.” 

The film crews have primarily been stationed downtown, where several buildings received a facelift to accommodate production. The facade of the fictional Monet’s coffee shop and Baker’s Pharmacy from “13 Reasons Why” is still up on Georgia street, drawing in young fans who like to take selfies in front of the building. 

“There are people there all day looking through the windows,” said Ray Prather, who has been renting his parking lot to the film crews. “Just a stream of little girls, mostly, taking pictures.” 

The Transformer’s spinoff “Bumblebee” also filmed scenes in the downtown area and Mare Island. 

For the most part, nearby residents and business owners who spoke to NBC Bay Area say they have been pleased with the production company’s presence. When film crews are in the area, staffers often shop at local retailers and drive tourism to the small city, which filed for bankruptcy in 2012. 

Kent Fortner, owner of Mare Island Brewing Co., lives and works two blocks away from production. He said any inconveniences have been mitigated by the boon film crews have brought to his business. 

“There is no doubt that it was disruptive, but I found it very entertaining,” Fortner said. “Economic activity is always a little disruptive, but the crews love to drink beer and it brought some good notoriety to the city.” 

But the experience hasn’t been universally positive. Some residents, including Fortner’s neighbor and some small business owners, have grown frustrated with street closures. 

Paramount Pictures also caused controversy over the summer when a production crew painted over a beloved city mural that featured community members who died tragically.

The muralist, Alvaro Garcia, said Paramount Pictures' response to the controversy felt "superficial." Although top producers apologized to people depicted in the mural and vowed to pay for a new one, they never reached out to him directly. 

"I feel like my mural was hijacked," he said. "People have been focusing on one aspect of it, without looking at the broader picture of what that mural represents in our city's history." 

Netflix has not yet confirmed whether "13 Reasons Why" will be back for a third season. If it is renewed, Fortner is hoping Paramount will return to Vallejo. 

“For a city that was once in bankruptcy and kind of took one on the chin, I think traffic and all of that stuff are good problems to have,” he said.

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