Despite a bigger-than-anticipated explosion on the set of the movie “The 5th Wave” Sunday, businesses and homes along Cotton Avenue shouldn’t be the worse for wear in the long run.
Though the explosion -- set off when filmmakers blew up a bus as part of an action sequence -- caused windows to break as well as smoke damage, the production team immediately worked to make repairs and clean up the scene, said Chris Floore, the Macon-Bibb County director of external affairs.
The explosion happened about 3:30 a.m. No injuries were reported.
Floore said there’s been no estimate of damage costs because the production is covering the cost of repairs.
“(The production team) has been meeting with the building owners,” he said.
Floore and Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said the film crew met with fire officials in the days leading up to the explosion, and fire crews were standing by at the scene when the explosion happened.
“We had fire crews meeting with (the filmmakers) regularly,” Floore said. “At all of our meetings, that level (of explosion) wasn’t discussed.”
Riggins said the biggest concern from fire crews was floating embers that landed on several rooftops along Cotton Avenue.
“The major concern we had was the debris,” he said. “We did not anticipate it. The explosion was more lateral than vertical. ... We worked expeditiously to get the embers put out.”
Riggins said his crews made sure the roofs were clear of embers and any other potential damage. He said he planned to inspect the buildings this week to see if there was any other damage not readily visible.
The Golden Bough bookstore on Cotton Avenue, located just a few feet from where the bus exploded, seemed to get the worst of it, with smoke damage still visible on the front of the building Monday morning. Owner Eric Wakefield said the glass in his front window and door was shattered, a window in the back of the store also broke, and some of the ceiling was damaged. Also, he said, the phone equipment in the back of the building was damaged, meaning he can’t take credit cards until it’s repaired.
“The movie people are handling it so far,” he said of the damage.
Wakefield said he was a little concerned about the explosion when he found out it was coming.
“They told me I shouldn’t be concerned,” he said. “I thought they were going to use compressed air rather than actual explosives.”
None of Wakefield’s merchandise was damaged, he said. Though even a small spark could have destroyed the bulk of his stock, Wakefield noted that firehoses would have done as much damage had the need arisen.
Aubrey Newby, who helps manage the Rhodes Standard Building across the street, said he got a call at 4 a.m. from Trey Neely, the production’s location manager.
“He said, ‘Things didn’t go as planned’ and that I needed to get down here as soon as possible,” Newby said.
The building, made up of one-bedroom lofts, had many of its windows shattered, while one loft sustained smoke damage -- the only loft currently unoccupied.
Newby said the production team has moved quickly to assess and repair the damage.
“Their response has been remarkable,” he said. “When I got (to the building), Servpro was already here and the city officials never left. At 12:30 (p.m. Sunday), there already was a vast difference. They’ve gone above and beyond and done everything they can to remedy it.”
Neely referred all questions about the production to a publicist, with whom a message was left Monday but not returned.
Floore and Riggins said that they hope the episode doesn’t discourage future film productions to shoot in Macon, but they have learned from the experience and will be ready if a movie requiring pyrotechnics comes here again.
Wakefield and Newby both said they hope to see future productions in Macon. Wakefield noted he told Neely that his bookstore would be available for any future shoots. Newby added that the explosion just adds to the rich history of the buildings on Cotton Avenue.
“All of these buildings have stories, and this will become a part of the story,” he said. “Each time Macon experiences (a film production), we learn a little bit.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.