Filmmaker wants to close downtown block for one day

Early next month, downtown shoppers may have the chance to see movie magic in the making.

A local filmmaker wants to close down a portion of Massachusetts Street early next month to shoot scenes for an independent film about Lawrence crop artist Stan Herd.

Lawrence director Chris Ordal is asking for city permission to close the 800 block of Massachusetts Street from 6 a.m. to midnight on Aug. 4.

The filming would close the block to all traffic and parking during the time period, but pedestrians would still be allowed to walk to businesses in the block.

"They mainly don't want vehicles that wouldn't fit into their film time period," said Jonathan Douglass, assistant to the city manager. "They're not too concerned with people walking through."

Leaders with Downtown Lawrence Inc. are supporting the closing - which would occur on a Monday. Managers with individual businesses on the block were mixed on the subject. Some expressed concern over the potential for lost sales, but also recognized the movie could produce good publicity for the city.

"I know when the street shuts down for repairs, it is bad for business," said Lori Lange, a manager at Prairie Patches, 821 Mass. "But with this being one day and with it on a Monday, it is probably not that big of a deal one way or another.

"And it is always fun to put Lawrence on the map. People still talk about the movie The Day After."

This film, tentatively titled "Earthwork," focuses on a project Herd did in conjunction with Donald Trump in the 1990s where he used New York City homeless people to build a country scene along the Hudson River.

"It really is a story about a Kansas artist who brings a little bit of Kansas to New York City," said Ordal, who plans on using downtown to depict scenes from the 1980s and 1990s.

In addition to downtown, a significant amount of filming will be done at Pendleton's Country Market just east of the city, Ordal said. In fact, the production crew will build a 200-foot concrete wall to help make parts of the farm look like portions of New York City.

The movie has been in the works for about two years, Herd said, after Ordal helped the artist put together a slide show of his internationally-recognized work.

"The ego likes it, but there is also some trepidation," Herd said about being the subject of a film. "Most of the time, I feel pretty good about it."

Ordal doesn't have a distribution deal in place for the movie, but hopes it will gain notoriety on the independent film circuit and gain a wide showing.

City commissioners are scheduled to discuss the street closing request at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday.

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