Executive producer E. Bennett Walsh said last week that the film’s target release date is “exactly one year from today: June 7, 2013.”
Walsh said the production staff and crew spent six weeks preparing in Moab, followed by five full days of shooting at multiple locations in Grand and San Juan counties.
According to Walsh, the film’s storyline is set far in the future, when Will Smith’s and Jaden Smith’s characters find themselves on an alien planet called Nova Prime, which earthlings have colonized a thousand years after their home planet became uninhabitable.
“It’s a very intimate story, but we tried to give it a grand canvas,” Walsh said, adding that the Moab area’s distinctive red rocks made it a perfect choice for Nova Prime. “The landscape was a character in the film.”
Walsh said that Moab was the fourth of four principal locations in which the film was shot over the past four months. Filming also occurred in Costa Rica, Pennsylvania, and northern California. The movie’s director is M. Night Shyamalan, whose previous work includes “The Sixth Sense,” “Signs” and “The Village.”
Walsh said he was very appreciative of the level of support that the cast and crew received during their stay in Moab. “We really enjoyed being here,” he said, adding that he hopes his work will again bring him to the area in the future.
Walsh said approximately 485 crew and cast members were in town during the height of the “After Earth” shoot, and that another 130 local people were hired, including about 100 extras. He estimated that the production spent at least $400,000 locally on motel rooms, food and other expenses.
“I believe when the figures come in, we will see that this project had a very positive economic impact on our area,” said Tara Penner, director of the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission. “Now that filming in our area has wrapped, we are ecstatic with the end results. Personally, I cannot wait for the movie to be released!”
Penner said Walsh and his crew were “fantastic to work with.” She said that the production began working with local and federal government agencies more than a year ago and also worked with private property owners and local crew members.
Locally, the movie was filmed near Fossil Point, Penner said, as well as multiple locations near state Route 279, on private land owned by Intrepid Potash, and at the Green River Overlook in Canyonlands National Park.
“Even our local school district was able to benefit from this production by renting out unused space for the production offices,” Penner said. “Many private entities also benefited, ranging from the private home owner who rented their house or the private property owners who actually had some of the production shot on their land.”
The school district has earned at least $13,000 in lease and rental fees, and that figure will likely rise, Grand County School District Superintendent Margaret Hopkin said. The production crew is still doing some work in the Grand County Middle School this week and has a lease on the vocational/technical center that could extend into July, Hopkin said. The production company also rented the high school kitchen for several days to prepare food for crew members, she said.
“They’re still there leasing and we’re still in the process of adding up the lease costs and the cost for renting other spaces,” Hopkin said. She said the money will go into the district’s building management fund.
Last Thursday, the day after “After Earth” wrapped, Walsh stood amid a bustle of activity at the film’s production offices (the old vocational/technical center buildings adjacent to Grand County Middle School). Dozens of busy employees were packing trucks, washing fleet vehicles, and making arrangements to travel back home.
Walsh jokingly likened the spectacle to a “circus,” explaining that filmmaking is a “very manual, very labor-intensive process.”
Walsh also said that while principal photography has been completed, the film still requires a few more shots for digital backgrounds. Walsh and a few others will be traveling to Iceland and Switzerland soon to obtain the needed footage, he said. The entire film was shot using Sony’s new F65 digital camera, Walsh said.
According to Penner, the Moab area’s next major film production will be Disney’s “The Lone Ranger,” starring Johnny Depp. “The Lone Ranger” has already begun preparation work and is scheduled to be filming in multiple locations throughout the Moab area until the end of July, Penner said.
Times-Independent reporter Lisa J. Church contributed to this report.