Back to school came early at Everett High on Wednesday, but it was all just pretend. Dozens of high-energy kids — some marching down the sidewalk playing band instruments, strumming guitars or doing handsprings across the lawn — weren’t really Seagull students. Even the school sported a pretend name.
A sign made to match Everett High’s magnificent edifice on Colby Avenue told a fib: “McDowell Middle School.”
Throughout the morning, strains of a melody sure to bring a pang of 1960s nostalgia blasted from speakers for all to hear. You know the song: “Meet the Flintstones.”
Seeing a film crew, police blocking traffic, and a jib arm holding a camera, passersby asked what all the hoopla was about. They learned it was a cereal commercial, not another feature film, being shot in Everett. The product, Fruity Pebbles made by Post Cereals, was in boxes on the set.
Anyone staying long enough to watch the ad’s plot unfold saw a 10-year-old actress munch a hearty bite of Fruity Pebbles. Standing outside Everett High, the girl in a purple bike helmet served herself that crunchy bite from a white bowl. She then gave another kid a high-five, and dashed toward the school entrance with an eagerness to get to class that I’d never seen in my own children.
Going through their paces, cast members followed orders called out by a man with a megaphone. Over and over, they sprang into action, playing drums and horns, wearing sparkly cheer-squad outfits, riding scooters, toting backpacks, and juggling while riding a unicycle. Confetti cannons added airborne color to the scene.
The commercial was shot by Society, Inc., a film company started in Seattle but now based in Los Angeles. Harry Calbom, Society’s executive producer, was at Everett High for the filming Wednesday. Later in the day, the project moved to a north Everett neighborhood to shoot sequences that in the commercial will lead up to the school finale.
At the corner of Rucker Avenue and 14th Street, a red-haired 12-year-old on a surfboard was hauled down the street. Her surfboard, mounted on blue wooden waves on wheels, was pulled up Rucker by a vehicle carrying a camera operator.
That same block of Rucker, between 13th and 14th streets, is where scenes from the movie “The Architect” were filmed in 2013. Then, actress Parker Posey and others strolled up the sidewalk with baby carriages. “The Architect” was shown in June at the Seattle International Film Festival.
Another recent movie filmed in Everett, the heist thriller “7 Minutes,” had its Washington premiere at the Historic Everett Theatre in 2015. Carol Thomas, Everett’s cultural arts director, helped the makers of “7 Minutes” with the filming permit process, and also did so for the national cereal commercial.
“When you’re receptive to film, whether it’s ‘7 Minutes,’ ‘The Architect’ or TV, it’s an economic driver for restaurants, hotels and other businesses,” said Thomas, who was on the scene Wednesday. “The more we can bring here, the more we can support that industry in the Northwest.”
Calbom said the cereal ad used nearly 10 principal actors, about 50 extras, and a crew of more than 60 people. Everett was one of several locations in the running for the commercial, which was directed by Sean Pecknold, of Society, Inc. Among sites that lost out to Everett were Vancouver, British Columbia, Los Angeles, and a Midwest location, Calbom said.
Everett police officers, all working while off duty, blocked traffic near the high school and Rucker filming sites. Thomas said the Everett School District was involved in coordinating the project, with arrangements handled by Ysella Perez, a community services supervisor with the district.
Leanna Albrecht, the Everett district’s communications director, said community groups often rent school facilities. The film company was charged $1,237 for the use of Everett High’s cafeteria and custodial services. The cafeteria was open during the project. There was no charge for use of the lawn. The sum was a standard fee paid by for-profit users, she said. Nonprofits pay lower rental fees.
And come that first day of school — if glitzy advertising is to be believed — a bite of fruity cereal might be the trick to getting kids out the door.