By Dave Russell
Three years after the last call of “Action!” downtown Sylva is still feeling the presence of the hit movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” filmed in the region in 2016.
“We have flyers out and people are grabbing them all the time,” said Selena Hyde, a desk clerk at the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.
“They usually ask where the buildings are and if they can walk there from here and see them,” said Ali Smith, who also works at the Chamber.
“We’ve printed about 550 tour sheets to date; people still stop in daily to pick them up,” Jackson County Tourism Development Authority Director Nick Breedlove said. “There’s continued and sustained interest even three years after the filming of the movie. We still market it in our Visitor Guide.”
Shortly after the film’s release in 2017, stories about the film put Sylva in the limelight.
The New York Times published an article, “Silver-Screen Travel Inspiration for Oscars Season,” about people who travel to locations they’ve seen on the big screen.
“Sylva, in Western North Carolina, played a central role, hosting the Ebbing police department (actually a home décor store) and the advertising company across the street from which Frances McDormand’s character, Mildred Hayes, hurls flaming bombs,” it says. “In nearby Dillsboro, Country Traditions, a food and wine store, played the gift shop where Mildred worked.”
The TDA website offers an “Insider’s Guide To Ebbing And The Filming Of Three Billboards.”
Breedlove said he took up that project because he didn’t feel many of the national articles written about Sylva and the filming really captured the experience.
The guide offers a mix of photos from Fox Searchlight, The Sylva Herald, social media and video that people took during the filming.
Pictures from inside the local businesses pair up with the locations of the movie, so people can see how the town transformed into Ebbing.
The majority of “Three Billboards” filming was done around Sylva over 33 days beginning in May 2016.
Local filming locations include:
• Dentist Office: F. Patrick McGuire Dentistry, Sylva.
• Dixon’s house: Cowan Street, Sylva.
• Gift shop: Country Traditions, Dillsboro.
• High school: Cullowhee Valley Elementary.
• Police station: Sassy Frass Consignment, West Main Street, Sylva.
• Police station toilet: First United Methodist Church, Jackson Street, Sylva.
• “Red” Welby’s office: TenBiz, Inc., West Main Street, Sylva.
Regional filming locations include:
• Restaurant: J. Arthur’s, Soco Road, Maggie Valley.
• Hospital: Haywood Regional Medical Center, Clyde.
• WNC Nature Center, Gashes Creek Road, Asheville.
The synopsis from Fox/Searchlight reads: “After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command, Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.”
It would go on to win two Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, three Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, five British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards, and many other awards at film festivals around the globe.
The TDA has the printed film locations tour map available at the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center and area hotels, Breedlove said.
The online guide is available at www.discoverjacksonnc.com/insiders-guide-to-ebbing-and-the-filming-of-three-billboards.