Downtown: Cinema magic at the Discovery Center; more parking meters ahead

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    A promotional shot of the film "First Signal" taken at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. —Courtesy

  • General John Reager (played by Paul Noonan) shows President Helen Colton (played by Wendy Hartman) during a scene from First Signal being filmed at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord on Saturday, June 22, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Actor Paul Noonan talks with director Mark Lund during a break in the filming of First Signal at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord on Saturday, June 22, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Scientist Cedric Yonah (played Conor Timmis) and General John Reager (played by Paul Noonan explain to the president the nature of alien sighting during filming of First Signal being shot at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord on Saturday, June 22, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The film crew from the movie First Signal set up a shot under the direction of director Mark Lund at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord on Saturday, June 22, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Film crews speak with actor Paul Noonan on the set of “First Signal” during shooting Saturday at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • President Helen Colton (played by Wendy Hartman) mules over a decision during a scene of First Signal being filmed at McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord on Saturday, June 22, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • First Signal director Mark Lund (right) talks with actors Patience McStravick and Paul Noonan during a break in filming on Saturday at McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/23/2019 7:52:35 PM

There’s a government conspiracy happening in Concord – and the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center is right in the thick of it.

Okay, it’s not a real conspiracy, but there is action happening at our local space center. Filming for First Signal, a 90-minute feature film written and directed by Mark Lund, has been taking place at the Discovery Center for the last few weeks and will continue through the end of the month.

The plot may be familiar to sci-fi fans: set in 2014 on an international stage, First Signal revolves around a government conspiracy being uncovered after “Air Force Space Command receives a signal from an alien satellite in Earth’s orbit,” according to film website IMDB.

Director Lund said the Discovery Center is serving as the film’s military base, a key location given its subject. Specifically, the museum’s conference and function rooms, the main gallery, the observatory and the iconic Mercury-Redstone rocket out front will feature heavily in the film’s locales. Lund said they might work with the planetarium, too.

If you’re having a hard time imagining our humble space museum turned into a government base, Lund said the Discovery Center’s intimate size is actually a selling point.

“It’s not one of those super-massive museums,” he said, noting he first scouted the museum a year ago. “...When people see the film they’ll go ‘Wow, they used almost everything.’ ”

Transforming the museum into a bunker will be mostly a matter of camera angles, color editing and props, Lund said. And, of course, special effects – expect overhead shots of the center to have the adjacent NHTI campus replaced with trees. There might be a tank or two “for gravitas” on the premises as well, Lund said.

So far, First Signal has been a mostly New England production – most of the filming has taken place at the center,Lund said, and he’s currently looking for a large field for a space ship in a pivotal moment in the story. All but two of the crew members are from New Hampshire, and most of the actors are from surrounding states.

There’s still a ways to go before the film hits theaters. Lund said it’ll take about eight months of post-production work to get the film ship-shape, and then he has to market it. He’ll be taking First Signal to the American Film Market in Santa Monica, Calif., in late fall to shop it around; from there, he’s anticipating an April 2020 drop.

Parking changes

Coming soon: an additional 258 parking meters in the downtown area.

The Concord City Council approved adding meters to 11 streets when it adopted the fiscal year 2020 budget as part of its efforts to overhaul and expand the city’s parking system. Streets affected will include: Center, Chesley, Court, Montgomery, North Main, North State, Pleasant, South, South Spring, South State and Wall Streets, according to city documents.

South State Street will be getting 64 meters, a quarter of the total expected expansion.

Meters installed south of Theatre Street are meant to encourage employees working at the Smile building to use their reserved parking spaces at their private surface lots rather than those on the streets.

It’s been “a chronic problem” for the area “ever since on-street parking was restored along this section of Storrs Street in March 2014,” wrote Matt Walsh, assistant city manager for economic development, in a May report.

“By metering these spaces, and thus encouraging Smile Building employees to use their reserved private spaces, the City will expand the general public’s access to on-street parking in this location,” he wrote.

Financially, it seems like the city’s various changes to the parking system have paid off. According to projections, the fund is expected to generate about $307,614 more revenue than budgeted by the end of the year.

 (Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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