Detroit: Movie Set

Seemingly overnight, a small and relatively quiet, decaying commercial district was restyled and reimagined with brand-new “antique” advertisements and businesses for the latest installment of Transformers.  This isn’t my normal style of post, but regardless of how anybody feels about the franchise, we’re pretty impressed by how realistic the changes look.  #5 is currently filming around town, as I’ve mentioned before, but, they’re not confined to the Packard Plant – they’re also using Woodward Avenue Presbyterian/St. Curvy and the commercial buildings on lonely Chene Street, styled to look like a blown-out, retro downtown street.

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Along the block, a few storefronts have seen some changes, some more obvious than others.  Doors have been added to one building, shredded plastic has been tied along all the windowsills to blow in the breeze, and broken and melted plastic signs with teddy bears hanging execution-style from the supports have been added.  A fake ghost sign has been painted on Max’s wall to look like a vintage dealership advertisement.

Max’s Jewelry Co. has been fully redecorated as a bar, inside and out.  Its distinctive sign has been refitted with two brand new clocks, each lined with red neon (how magical would it be to see that illuminated?  Aah) .  A new light fixture has been added along one side, and the formerly empty windows have been refitted with glass that was not only carefully fitted to the long-empty frames, but artfully broken and hand-lettered in gold paint.


Inside, a bar is fully stocked with bottles, antler and wagon wheel chandeliers hang from the ceiling, a large, vintage video game console sits against the wall, and playing cards sit on the table.  Saddles and rustic Western decor contrast the Art Deco exterior.  Half of the bar has collapsed in the back, and they’ve laid one midcentury modern vinyl barstool on its side in the hallway toward the debris.  It’s…a mishmash of style.

Around the corner, a simple commercial building with a wide, windowless expanses of wall and an I-beam where a sign once hung has been transformed into a vintage bowling alley, fitted with a convincingly dirty mural advertisement.  Everything is convincingly weathered, faded, and broken.

Back at the Packard Plant, silver trains tumble over twisted track lines, and wrecked cars sit amongst even more newly, carefully placed rubble.  Signs have been posted around the set that read, “No trespassing – US Government – lethal force will be used.” Pro tip: it won’t, because it is a fake sign.  Still, don’t do it.

Here they are actively filming at our beloved Abyssinia/Woodward Presbyterian:

If you’d like to shoot the set, it’s not illegal if you don’t go past the caution tape, but they’ll probably shoo you away from the Packard Plant with nonlethal force.  Chene is still just a street, after all.  Don’t walk in the field, I guess, according to what I was told.  Be polite or even bring them water because they don’t get much, if any, and it’s hot.

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Surely all be dismantled and painted over when they leave, left behind as it was when they got here, so enjoy the weird little changes while you can.
[And finally, as for this photo from the gallery above, special thanks to my new friend Delilah, who offered to take this photo with my camera from her grandma’s shoulders above the fence. I straightened it, but it’s her killer composition…and she was little enough to be on Grandma’s shoulders!  Thanks, girl.]

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