'Five Year Engagement' shoot at a local house provides memorable experience for family
photo by Bruce Laidlaw
Crew members for the Jason Segel/Emily Blunt romantic comedy “Five Year Engagement” first arrived at the Friedmans' home with a large moving truck last Friday morning and moved in two rooms’ worth of furniture, shifting much of the Friedmans’ own furniture to the family’s basement or to other temporary storage spaces.
“They also moved some props in, and then they left us there over the weekend,” said Friedman. “It was kind of funny. My daughter was concerned at one point because I’d moved a pillow, and I told her, ‘I think they’ll manage to put the pillow back.’”
Friedman and his family did, however, take pains to avoid moving various knickknacks (and other props) that had been placed around the house. And on Monday, crew members returned.
“They moved more stuff in, but it was mostly electrical stuff,” said Friedman. “People were working in the house all day, and some of them washed the windows in the rooms where they were going to be filming, which was a nice perk.”
Monday was the first day that security arrived on the scene, because “the furniture, they weren’t so worried about, but the copper wiring they use is pretty valuable," said Friedman.
The Friedman family’s adventure in film began in January, when location scouts distributed leaflets to a few select, local homes to see whether homeowners might be willing to have their homes transformed into a movie set. When the Friedmans responded, a scout came out and spent 90 minutes taking photos. Subsequent visits from increasingly larger groups (which included an “Engagement” producer and the film’s director, Nicholas Stoller) led to the Friedmans learning that their home had been chosen — but the contract wasn’t finalized until a week before the crew was scheduled to arrive.
“They didn’t drop leaflets off at all of the houses,” said Friedman. “And as soon as we called, the location scout said something like, ‘Oh, yeah, the one with the stone chimney in front.’ What was unusual was, they were not shooting the exterior of the house, just the interior. So there must have been something about the exterior that suggested to them that there would be something about interior that they would like.”
The “Engagement” team used two front rooms that are original to the 1930s house — a living room and a dining room — to shoot “two ends of a Skype conversation simultaneously,” according to Friedman. And a big family room at the back of the house — added on approximately nine years ago — played host to a longer, bigger scene.
“The addition isn’t visible from the street, but in the end, that may have been one of the things they liked about the house,” said Friedman. “The addition is in keeping with the rest of the house, but it still has a different sense of place from the front rooms. So they could film different scenes, set in different places, all inside our house.”
On Tuesday, before filming got under way, Friedman made sure the family’s pets (one dog, two cats) were kept away from the working cast and crew members, and then “hung out across the street, sitting on the lawn or in our neighbor’s house.” One by one, though, each member of Friedman family got to return to the house to observe a little bit of the filming.
This was a particular thrill for Friedman’s children — 18-year-old Rebecca (a student at Cornell who was flown home, courtesy of some frequent flyer miles, for the occasion); 13-year-old Daniel; and 11-year-old Julia.
photo by Bruce Laidlaw
But there was a treat in store for Friedman, too. “When I went in, the actors were all in position for the shoot, and I looked and realized, ‘That’s David Paymer,’” Friedman said. “ He and I grew up in the same area (Oceanside, Long Island). I was older, but we’d gone to the same high school, so I talked to him a bit about that. We’d had some of the same teachers. He was kind of the local boy makes good. So I got a kick out of meeting him.”
Much of Wednesday was spent removing all the equipment, props, and furniture involved with the “Engagement” shoot from the house, while also restoring everything in the Friedmans’ home back to the way it had looked before. And when crew members discovered that some curtain rods had left marks on the Friedmans' walls, they quickly matched the paint and performed the necessary touch-ups.
“I want to underline that from beginning to end, everything was done first class,” said Friedman. “Everyone we interacted with was very nice; they were respectful of the house, and its contents, and us and our lives. Everybody understood their jobs and took care to do them right.”
Yet after such a close brush with Hollywood, returning to “normal life” can feel a little disappointing.
Friedman reported, “My son came in the house (on Thursday) and said, ‘It’s so boring in here now.’”