Former Oakland City Jail stars in movie
By Laura Casey, STAFF WRITER
February 28, 2006
OAKLAND — Her eyes closed and lips in a pout, an actress sits
inside the former Oakland City Jail guard station waiting for
a make-up artist to gently stroke some color onto her face.
A few doors down, Holding Cell 2 has been transformed from a
dark and dank jail cell into a dark and dank Hollywood wardrobe
closet. There, the stars of the movie "Curse of Alcatraz"
choose their outfit for the day's shooting in the ghost town-like
City Jail was closed last year to save Oakland almost $3
million and help close a $31.7 million budget shortfall.
the jail, it looks as though time stopped in June 2005, when
the last of Oakland's prisoners were transferred. Cafeteria
trays still lay stacked in the kitchen near rolling bins labeled
"Oatmeal" and "Sugar." Toothpaste graffiti
of crosses and lovers' names haven't been rubbed off the walls;
sunflower seed shells are tucked inside nooks in cell doors.
It is the perfect set for a jail movie, said "Curse of
Alcatraz" producer Sean Wilson, an Oakland native who scouted
the location for the film.
prisoners went away and everything was left intact," he
of Alcatraz," written and directed by Daniel Zirilli, is
what people in the industry call a "straight to DVD"
has spent years in the film industry, directing more than 200
movies, commercials and music videos. He said there is a huge
market for "straight to DVD" films in local video
stores and overseas.
movie is a horror/thriller that follows a forensic expert, a
professor and his students into the former Alcatraz prison to
study a mummified body. During their study, they unwittingly
uncover a bloodborne illness that takes them over one-by-one.
Part of the film was shot on Alcatraz island itself, but the
portions inside an actual jail are being shot for seven days
is a perfect fit, Wilson said. The two jails were built within
a decade of one another, and the bars on their cells are of
the same design.
is an old-school cell line," he said while walking the
second floor of the jail, where longtime prisoners were once
entered a cell and rolled the door shut. The distinctive "clink"
sound of metal hitting metal is ominous for him and the film's
actors, he said. As they were shooting a scene with all the
actors inside a cell, Wilson said the actors were noticeably
disturbed by the confinement.
eerie," said Alex Quinn, the lead actor in the film. "You
definitely feel the claustrophobia, you know? It makes you want
to stay out of it."
considers it a "coup" to get access to the Oakland
City Jail from city leaders and the Oakland Film Office.
Zins of the Oakland Film Office said it's been a great deal
for Oakland too. All the film's actors and other workers, some
of whom are local, including Wilson, are staying in local hotels
and spending money in local shops and restaurants.
is really one of those great local-boy-keeps-production-here-in-town
stories," Zins said.
of Alcatraz" will be released in stores this summer.
to In the News