Actor James Franco makes Guerneville filming appearance

Guerneville's gone Hollywood for a new film starring James Franco.|

West Sonoma County is buzzing about a film crew that has been in the area shooting an indie flick featuring Hollywood star James Franco.

The Palo Alto native recently was spotted on First Street in Guerneville after he and the film crew rolled into town about two weeks ago, said Debra Johnson, president of the Russian River Chamber of Commerce.

Franco, nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the 2010 film “127 Hours,” last week posted on Facebook and Instagram a selfie with the caption “Nor Cal. Smell the weeeeeed,” a picture locals say was taken at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve where he was taking a walk.

“He was out and about,” Johnson said. “Everyone is talking about it.”

The crew was at the Guerneville Veterans Memorial Hall for several days shooting “The Fixer,” a drama directed and co-written by Ian Olds. The film was inspired by “fixers,” individuals hired to translate and guide international journalists while abroad.

It follows Osman, a 28-year-old Afghan journalist exiled from his country who ends up in a bohemian town on the Northern California coast. His aggressive coverage on an otherwise menial police blotter beat connects him with Lindsay, an unstable hot tub mechanic played by Franco, who helps him navigate the backwoods of the small town.

The crew spent part of July 10 filming in a wooded area off Tyrone Road, west of Bohemian Highway south of Monte Rio.

Crew members still at the site declined to reveal future filming locations. The locations manager did not return a call.

The crew was previously considering shooting a scene at the Sebastopol Police Department lobby, according to the city’s planning director, Kenyon Webster. But they never submitted a film permit for that location.

It’s not unusual to see filming in the area, said Ben Stone, executive director of the county’s Economic Development Board, which runs the Sonoma County Film Office. Most often, teams are shooting television commercials, many of them for cars, he said.

In 2014, the county issued ?85 permits totaling 105 days of filming, including for the independent film “The Wrong Side of Right,” shot partially in Petaluma.

The county estimates the ?filming permits last year brought in $1.9 million in revenue, a nearly 14 percent increase from 2013. No major films were shot, though.

With all the technological advances in Hollywood, Stone said, the county is seeing fewer feature films being staged here. “Much of this stuff they do in their studios with special effects,” he said.

In Guerneville, Johnson said the crew spent most of the time shooting indoors in the veterans building, although some members stopped by local eateries to pick up sandwiches and other grub to take back to the crew.

They were in the Guerneville area until this past Tuesday, said Gene Clark, deputy director of the Sonoma County General Services. It’s unknown whether the team will return to Guerneville to film.

“At this time, we are not aware of any additional filming dates requested at the Vets Building,” Clark said in an email.

Their arrival in the lower Russian River area was a total surprise, Johnson said.

Due to a communication glitch, she said, she didn’t learn about the production until the crew arrived on July 3, just before Guerneville’s big Independence Day celebration.

“There were people everywhere, trucks all over the street. It was a little bit of mayhem,” said Johnson, who sprang into action, helping manage the parking situation and offering the lot of her real estate office near the veterans’ building.

But the town welcomed them.

“Everybody worked to try to accommodate them,” she said, adding that town boosters also appreciate the publicity. “Anytime you get exposure, it’s great for the economy.”

Staff Writer Mary Callahan contributed to the story. Reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 521-5458 or

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