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Kitsap hosts a small, sweet movie

Kitsap County will never host the filming of the next high-octane superhero movie or star-driven chick flick, but it is the ideal place for a less extravagant film with a plot befitting the local scenery.

Such is the case with “Zombies of Mass Destruction,” a medium-budget movie being filmed in Port Gamble through November.

The movie landed in Port Gamble by accident. Producer John Sinno was scouting locations and settled on Port Townsend, but when he visited that town he found it was too large for what he had in mind. On the way back to Seattle, he discovered Port Gamble and determined it fit the bill.

For the sake of the movie, it will be-come an island called Port Gamble, in an unspecified region of the United States.

This may be payback for what happened with the 2004 movie, “Walking Tall.” Kitsap County was scouted for the movie but didn’t meet the filmmaker’s needs, so they decided to appropriate only the name and the Canadian location was re-christened as “Kitsap.”

The plot of “Zombies,” boiled down to its essence, traces the arrival on the beach of a zombie who ends up consuming the townspeople one by one.

Within this framework, the movie will explore themes of racial prejudice and fear.

“It will show how the reaction to an event can be as frightening as the event itself,” Sinno said.

The movie’s budget is around $500,000, which Sinno called “medium.” He said any movie within that amount would be able to function comfortably in Kitsap.

Sinno received a Best Documentary Academy Award nomination for 2006's "Iraq in Fragments." His discovery of Port Gamble is a reversal of how locations are normally chosen. Information about Kitsap County locations is stored in the Washington State Film Office’s database, and whenever a film requests information the office suggests a location based on these stated requirements.

According to the Film Office’s director Suzy Kellett, Kitsap is a good place to shoot rural waterfront films, or those set in a time period less affected by progress.

Kitsap’s limitations are also clear. It is not easily accessible from Seattle, since ferry transport is expensive and inflexible. Thus, large cargos would have to travel from the south on roads somewhat smaller than the average interstate.

Lodging is also less than optimal for large events, since only 1,300 hotel rooms exist in the entire county.

And there isn’t a whole lot to do at night, a drawback for someone accustomed to the Hollywood lifestyle.

“If you’re going to host a major project, you’ll need between 50 and 120 rooms,” Kellett said. “The crew could commute to Kitsap from Seattle, but traveling on the ferries becomes in issue. It takes time out of their work day.”

None of these factors are disadvantages on this particular production. The cast and crew of about 40 people has taken over a local bed-and-breakfast along with cabins at Kitsap Memorial Park.

There isn’t a lot of equipment to move in and out, so the limited transportation isn’t a problem. And since most of the shooting is done at night, the lack of cool places to hang in the evenings is hardly noticed.

“Everything we need, we can find in Poulsbo or Silverdale,” Sinno said. “They have Costco and Radio Shack, so there is no problem.”

As for the area, he said “Poulsbo is so beautiful. I had no idea.”

The production is being carefully watched by Kitsap Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Grant Griffin, whose office is also situated in Port Gamble.

Griffin visited Sinno on Wednesday, offering help and advice for getting along in the county. For example, Griffin said the production could close the main street in Port Gamble without notice but would have to contact the police if they wanted to close the main highway.

He also offered to help the production borrow a fire truck for a needed scene.

“I want to know where everyone is staying and where they’re eating,” Griffin said. “I will base my projections on this.”

Griffin often works with the film office to procure rooms and generally grease the skids for anything the production needs. The film office, in turn, manages an incentive program that reimburses movie prodicers a certain percentage of what they spend in the area (although the “Zombies” budget may be too small to qualify).

Sinno told Griffin of plans to film a documentary about Port Gamble to be included as a DVD extra. Griffin responded favorably, saying, “That’s something I wanted to do a few years ago but didn’t have the money.”

Kitsap could strike gold if a producer feels a certain locale is a perfect visual backdrop for the movie’s action.

“The location needs to suit the production’s needs,” Kellett said. “But if they want a particular place bad enough, they’ll make it work.”

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