Harvard Confidential: Construction of first 'Little Women' film set begins Monday on Town Center land

Town officials confirmed Thursday that they expect to sign an agreement with Columbia Pictures within the next few days to permit the filming of scenes at various town-owned locations this fall for a new version of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.”

Town Administrator Tim Bragan, Assistant Town Administrator Marie Sobalvarro, and Select Board member Stu Sklar told a special meeting of the Select Board Thursday afternoon that acting on behalf of the town they had tentatively approved Columbia’s use of several locations around the Common, including Town Hall and town land between the General Store and Congregational Church.

Construction of the first set, a facade that will stretch from the store to the church, is scheduled to begin Monday. Columbia has asked the town to provide parking for up to 18 crew members. Bragan said they will be permitted to park along Mass. Ave. between the CK Bikes shop and the entrance to the Bromfield School, as well as the unnamed street between the General Store and Fairbank Street. Columbia also asked to erect a 10 x 20 foot tent just inside the Town Center Cemetery wall that faces Still River Road, and according to Bragan the Cemetery Commission has given its permission. During construction, filming, and tear-down this fall, General Store patrons can continue to use parking slots directly in front of the building. However, the town-owned portion of the site, including seven parking spaces, will be inaccessible to the public and could be in use for 60 to 90 days, depending on the weather and other factors, Bragan said. Columbia has asked for permission to film in Town Center on Oct. 26, Nov. 2, and Nov. 5, work that will entail scene preparation before the filming takes place as well as road closings and detours while it is underway.

“This is a learning curve for us,” Bragan told Select Board members. He and Sobalvarro have developed a film permit application for use with Columbia and other studios, such as Netflix, which was also filming in town this week. The application fee is $500. “Our interest is in collecting as much information about a film project ahead of time so we can mitigate its impact,” said Sobalvarro. The application asks for filming locations and dates, planned special effects and stunts, expected noise levels, and street closings. The studio must also provide proof it has $1 million in insurance coverage and provide an estimate of the numbers of cast, crew, and vehicles involved.

In addition to filing the new application, Columbia must pay for use of the parcel next to the General Store at the town’s posted rate of $80 per day. The cost of additional town services, such as police details, will be billed directly to the company. Bragan said that the town will also charge Columbia an “aggravation fee” to compensate Harvard for the disruption of normal town business, which could be significant when the actual filming is done in late October and early November. But the algorithm for setting that number is yet to be determined. “It’s complicated,” he said.

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