Finest Hours

Disney film crew brings downtown Chatham back to the 1950s.

Address>Text and photography by Ashley Bilodeau

On Day 1 of filming “The Finest Hours” in Chatham early last December, five members of the Disney production crew arrived at my store at 9 a.m. Their goal: To transform my modern surf boutique into a tailor’s shop from the 1950s. The facades of many shops nearby were remade to resemble Main Street in 1952. Several businesses closed their doors to participate in the filming and vintage cars covered in snow lined the streets.

They first covered up my store’s name with a tin sign: Noxall Tailors, suede and leather cleaning. Two mannequins were then placed in the windows: one featured a dowdy brown woman’s dress, the other a men’s suit coat and shirt. Behind them, 11-feet-long curtains hid my shop’s interior.

The crew worked on my shop for about four hours. They were neat, positive, and above all, excited to work on the film. One member of the lighting crew worked on many amazing films and television shows, including “Game of Thrones.”

Truth be told, I wasn’t that familiar with the story of “The Finest Hours.” The crew ended up telling me all about the little-known piece of history in Chatham: Waves from a powerful winter storm ripped two oil tankers in half. Four young Chatham Coast guardsmen braved high winds in a small boat to save 32 seamen from sinking.

What could have turned into a boring afternoon turned into an unforgettable day. I felt like I was part of a bigger picture (no pun intended). From behind the curtains, with the flickering lights meant to simulate a storm, I watched the old cars drive by, as fake snow drifted to the ground.

For a moment, I had to remind myself that it was still 2014. When the scene was over, they cleaned up their props and lighting equipment, leaving my store cleaner than they had found it.

I then locked up my shop and watched as the crew cleaned up the fake snow with leaf blowers. It was over. And I wished they were just beginning again.

Ashley Bilodeau owns All Points Beautiful on Main Street in Chatham. “The Finest Hours,” starring Chris Pine, Eric Bana and Casey Affleck, is based on the best-selling book by Casey Sherman and Michael Tougias. The movie is slated for release in theaters on Oct. 9.