Netflix TV series starts filming in Vallejo

By Richard Freedman, Vallejo Times-Herald 06/07/16

Carina Barlow is an old pro at this “extras” game. Colleen Burckin is a first-timer.

Both, though, were thrilled that Paramount TV brought the Selena Gomez-produced “13 Reasons Why” to downtown Vallejo this week.

Around 50 extras were hired for Tuesday’s first day of filming the 13-episode Netflix series documenting the true story of teenage girl who commits suicide, but before doing it she records her suicide note on cassette tapes, and then sends the tapes to 13 people who she deemed responsible for her death.

The cameras started rolling late-morning inside made-for-the-movie Monet’s Cafe, the one-time City Lights restaurant on the 400 block of Virginia St. Across the street in front of the Times-Herald building, Barlow and Burckin waited patiently, hoping for the call.

Barlow, a long-time Vallejoan, has been cast in numerous commercials and several films as an extra. Burckin, a Benician and full-time clinical nurse, wanted to give this film-thing a try after years of being tossed on stage as a parent for her daughter’s performances with Benicia Ballet despite “being introverted as a kid.”

“When this came up, I thought, ‘I could do this,’” Burckin said. “My husband (Hale) said, ‘Give it a try’ so I’m testing the water.”

Granted, the “role” may be sitting in the cafe. Or walking behind the “real actors.” No matter.

“I may never make it” into the film, “but I still get $104,” Burckin said. “So far, it’s been a lot of sitting.”

With the minimal stage experience she’s had, Burckin said acting is very much like nursing.

“You walk into the room and it’s whatever the patient needs in that moment,” Burckin said.

Barlow, meanwhile, is “always on the lookout” for extras work. Though usually hired via casting agencies, this shoot was an “open call,” which means anyone in the public with a head shot and resume can go for it.

“I love it,” Barlow said.

Though Barlow never read the book, she was attracted to the plot, recalling a teenage friend who committed suicide.

“It was something I wanted to do,” she said of the extras job. “If this film helps in any way, it would be nice to be part of it.”

No matter.

“The fun thing about acting is you get to do something you always wanted to do, but you don’t have to keep doing it,” Barlow said.

Based on the 2007 New York Times bestselling book by Jay Asher, “13 Reasons Why” will film in Vallejo through Thursday, then head to Sebastopol and San Rafael before returning to Vallejo.

When the film crew heads home, Monet’s will likely remain Monet’s, said Robert Litwin, property manager for building owner Buck Kamphausen.

“Why not leave it that way and turn it into what it is,” Litwin said. “That’s something that’s on the plate. Why wouldn’t you keep what Paramount built for you?”

It was serendipitous that much of the Bay Area enjoyed clear skies and 80 degrees Tuesday, it was overcast in 70 in Vallejo.

In other words, just like the Pacific Northwest — ideal for the film.

“Paramount is that big,” Litwin said, suggesting production and distribution company influenced Mother Nature.

Litwin said four of Kamphausen’s buildings, plus four parking lots, are utilized by the film company, with the USA World Classics Events Center on Sonoma Boulevard headquarters for lunch and dinners for the film company personnel.

Hosting a Netflix TV series “will help put Vallejo on the map,” Litwin said. “This is what we need down here. I think it’s fantastic.”

Litwin joked that there was no interest by the motion picture people to cast him in the film.

“I think they cast me aside,” he said grinning.