Night time film location shooting at the Hillside School at the top of Cedar is a tent city! Movies in Berkeley? Shoot continues through sat. night I hear.
Night time location shooting at the old Hillside School on Le Roy and Cedar. Photo: Claudia Smukler

This weekend, Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will be Blood, Magnolia) was shooting scenes for his latest movie in Berkeley — as residents close to the old Hillside School on Le Roy Avenue have been all too aware.

The movie, tentatively entitled The Master, has a star-studded cast, including Amy Adams, Joaquin Phoenix, Laura Dern and Philip Seymour-Hoffman (who was spotted at The Claremont Hotel by Berkeleyside on Saturday evening). (See also paparazzi shots of Amy Adams Fiona Dourif in costume at Celebrity Gossip.)

Dozens of trucks and a plethora of location equipment were moved onto the grounds of the former elementary school, and filming has been ongoing since Friday, including under powerful klieg lights after sunset.

The 1925 Hillside Elementary School: location for Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest movie, “The Master”. Photo: Tracey Taylor

“I live up near the top of Cedar and tonight we had hugely bright lights shining right into our windows emanating from Hillside School,” Berkeleysider Molly Fraker wrote us on Friday. “So I took the dog to investigate… turns out that Paul Thomas Anderson is filming a ‘major motion picture’ tonight inside the school building (a classic structure)… Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix — I’d say that’s notable!”

According to IMDB, The Master is “a 1950s-set drama centered on the relationship between a charismatic intellectual known as ‘the Master’ whose faith-based organization begins to catch on in America, and a young drifter who becomes his right-hand man.”

Security at the Berkeley location was tight. On Saturday lunchtime the set was quiet — shooting was expected to resume later in the afternoon — but this reporter was asked twice not to take photographs, once by the movie’s Assistant Location Manager and once by a security guard.

Dozens of trucks and trailers parked on the Hillside School site for the shoot. Photo: Tracey Taylor

BUSD built Hillside School in 1925 on the site of several homes that were destroyed by the 1923 Berkeley fire, and it is a local historic landmark. The school was eventually closed, partly because it sits near the Hayward Fault, which runs behind it on La Loma Avenue. The District is currently in the process of putting the property up for sale.

The Master isn’t the only movie being shot in Berkeley. Jane Stillwater reports that Leah Meyerhoff, a graduate of Berkeley High, has been shooting scenes for her film Unicorns on the high school campus, among other locations. The movie is a coming-of-age tale with a twist, set in Berkeley.

[Hat tips: Molly Fraker, Claudia Smukler and Laura Walker.]

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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  1. For clarification about ArtWeek: by ‘screed’ I meant lengthy piece of writing (which of course the arts always need), no pejorative to the very enjoyable past art newspaper intended. -C.G.

  2. Hey, this is where my old art studio was from 1984-1987, on the third floor. I got the BUSD to let me in, then I placed an ad in the old art screed, ArtWeek. Next thing you knew, there were about 14 of us with art studios at Hilside. After the BUSD decided to rent to a French international Business school, I fought my first major political battle to keep my studio at Hillside. While most of the other artists jumped ship, one other one and I had petitions signed by the neighborhood, made speeches at City Council meetings, and talked to reporters. We won the right to stay. I was during my tenure there paying $125 per month for 1,000 square feet! Soon the rents began to begin their assent through the roofs, and for other reasons as well, I vacated to live for nearly twenty years at the Dutchboy, in East Oakland/Fruitvale area, where it became necessary to fight against another landlord. Recently I gave away all my art when I had to fight yet another eviction in Oakland.
       My good friend works at Nabolom Bakery and sold Amy Adams baked goods last week, looked it up, and told me about this article.  Takes me back, glad you wrote the article, can’t wait to see the film.

  3. i saw Joel Shock, from the show “the Office” Working out at 24 hr fitness in Oakland.. Hes said he was in town shooting a movie, I bet its this one!!!!  Super nice and hot body!!!

  4. I saw Amy Adams at Peets at noon on Saturday. She was hanging out with her baby. No fan fare. Just enjoying a gorgeous Berkeley day!

    Love her movies, but decided not to bother her!

  5. I watched Claire Forlani film a scene at Sather Gate in 1999 for “Boys and Girls”. And there was that Whoopi Goldberg movie in 1993, “Made in America”. They closed Telegraph to film a scene. Bee Season in 2005. Cherish in 2002. Where have you been?

  6. Pretty neat. There hasn’t been a major film shot in Berkeley since that Nick Notle film from the late 70’s if I recall..

  7. Ah, lovely and right on the faultline… Berkeley’s got so many of these magic spots..I’m sure that some kind of euphoric gas emits from the Hayward fault! Look at how many great sites are on it! But that’ll be a cool location..Favorite spot from when I lived around the corner, top of Cedar, in Miss Marians’ rooming house! Like the cast..hope they do a little shopping in the town, there is so much local Gold!