A movie billed as a love letter to Gloucester is using a former Beverly school as a stand-in for Gloucester High School.
A company began filming a movie at the empty former Briscoe Middle School on Thursday. A dozen large trucks were parked around the building, and long tables were lined up on the grass outside where crew members could eat. Spotlights, a large white backdrop and a crane were set up on one side of the building.
The movie, “CODA,” is about a 17-year-old girl who lives in Gloucester. She is the only hearing child in a deaf family and is torn between pursuing her love of music and her family’s reliance on her as their interpreter and connection to the hearing world, according to a description provided by the movie’s location manager.
Briscoe, which closed as a school in 2018, is being used to depict Gloucester High. The building is available as Beverly considers four offers to buy it, including proposals for housing and an arts center.
“We were attracted by the fact that not only is it a beautiful old school, but that it is closed,” said Tim Gorman, the location manager. “We kind of caught this window where the school is closed but not bought by whatever proposal the city accepts.”
The movie company is renting the building for August, September and October and is paying the city $10,000 a month, according to David Gelineau, the city’s purchasing agent.
“CODA” is an American adaptation of a successful French film called “La Famille Belier.” It is written and directed by Sian Heder, who has written, produced and directed on the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.”
Gorman said Heder grew up in Cambridge and spent her summers on the North Shore.
“It’s a real passion project for her,” he said of “CODA.” “It’s going to be a real love letter to Gloucester. There’s a lot about the trials and tribulations of fishermen, especially with all of the regulations on over-fishing. We’re trying to show a realistic slice of what it actually is to be a fisherman.”
Gorman said filming began about a month ago, almost exclusively in Gloucester, including on the city’s wharfs, at Cape Pond Ice and the Cape Ann Seafood Exchange. They have also filmed at several houses in Gloucester and Essex.
The company plans to film at Henry’s Market in Beverly in the next week or two, he said.
The film stars London-born actress Emilia Jones as 17-year-old Ruby, and Marlee Matlin, who is the only deaf performer to win an Academy Award, for best actress for “Children of a Lesser God” in 1986. The title “CODA” refers both to an acronym for “child of deaf adult,” and to a term for the concluding section of a dance.
“CODA” is co-produced by Patrick Wachsberger and Philippe Rousselet.
Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.