Lights, camera, Evanston!

Breanne Gilpatrick

Evanston area residents with cameras and binoculars crowded together on the sidewalk. They leaned over the yellow caution tape, watching crew members adjust lights and spray fake snow.

The group came out to watch actors shoot scenes from “The Weather Man,” a film starring Nicolas Cage as a Chicago weatherman with a troubled personal life. Michael Caine and actress Hope Davis also star in the film.

Shooting for the movie began Thursday in northwest Evanston and will continue for seven more days over the next two weeks, according to a production schedule provided to residents near the set. The filming in Evanston will focus on a house at Lincoln Street and Lincolnwood Drive.

Evanston resident Nadia Houk said Thursday that stargazing was a pleasant diversion from planning her upcoming marriage. Houk, who lives eight blocks away, got to the set at 11 a.m. and later saw a man she thought might be Cage.

“I said, ‘I wish he would turn around so you could see his face because I could just see the back of his head,'” Houk said. “And he did, and it was Nicolas Cage. Then I called my friends and said, ‘I’m 10 feet from Nicolas Cage. Where are you right now?'”

Evanston officials heard in February that filmmakers were looking at a specific house to use in the movie, said Darlene Nilges, executive assistant to the city manager. Movie officials signed a film permit, allowing them to shoot in Evanston at the beginning of March, she said.

The producers are paying $75 to film in Evanston — the standard cost of a permit for non-student films, Nilges said. The city will also charge fees for the use of city services.

Because the scenes being shot are set in winter, crew members have spent the last two weeks laying white tarps across neighbors’ lawns, placing cotton in bushes and spraying fake snow on roofs.

A representative from the movie approved the lawn changes with neighbors, said Linda Gartz, who lives on Lincoln. Residents said they were paid $800 each.

Film crew members have been considerate throughout the process, said Ida Mollenhauer, who lives nearby on Lincolnwood.

“I didn’t even know they were out there working,” she said. “I just looked out the window and I was like ‘oh my gosh, there’s snow.'”

Evanston has been the scene for several other movies in the past 15 years, such as “Dennis the Menace” and the “Home Alone” movies. But the city won’t allow a film to be shot if the process would cause too much of a hassle, Nilges said.

Evanston resident Pete Godwin said the only inconvenience so far is occasionally having to take an alternate route home because police are limiting traffic on the streets used for the shooting. The mail carrier was prevented from delivering mail Thursday while a scene was being shot, Godwin said, but he said he thinks that may have been just a matter of timing.

Neighbors were also given the option of being extras in the film, Mollenhauer said. That prospect is especially exciting for younger residents, like 12-year-old Meg Schroeder, who lives on Lincoln across from the main home.

“I get first choice in being an extra,” she said. “Also we get to be paparazzi, and that’s fun. You get to spy on people with cameras.”

For Communication senior Deborah Chung “The Weather Man” is an opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes in major movie productions. Chung has been working as a production office intern for the movie since the first day of production.

“Just to see things on that big a scale with streets blocked off and all the equipment is really interesting,” Chung said.