BART, city quiet about Oscar Grant film

July 24, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Bay Area story that made national news is now being made into a movie. Filming is already underway for a movie called "Fruitvale," which is a drama about the shooting of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer. ABC7 News learned the transit agency is actually helping make the production possible, but it is all a bit hush-hush at the moment.

The Oakland Film Commission is supposed to tout movie-making in the city, but an official with the commission refused to reveal any information about filming locations except to say there were no filming permits issued for Tuesday. And BART also declined to provide information saying it has an agreement with the producer to keep the filming as quiet as possible.

According to family members, and those familiar with the project, one of the filming locations is the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland where 22-year-old Grant was shot and killed by a BART police officer. The film is being made with the blessing of BART which is being paid an undisclosed amount of money by the producers.

BART spokesman Jim Allison tells ABC7 News, "When there is filming on BART property, the permit insures that BART is reimbursed for staff work so taxpayers are not subsidizing the film." However, he would not reveal any specific financial details.

The independent film, titled "Fruitvale" stars Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, who plays Grant's mother Wanda Johnson. The two had a chance to talk about grant recently.

"I told her that was the last day I got to see him was my birthday, at my birthday celebration when he came and brought some crabs. So we laughed and we cried and stuff, so it was a really good interview, I mean a really good dinner that we had," said Wanda Johnson, Oscar Grant's mother.

The writer and director of "Fruitvale" is East Bay filmmaker Ryan Coogler, seen here on the left during recent filming. He declined comment. Other filming locations have included Highland Hospital and BART police say there will be filming at the San Leandro BART Station later this week.

Regarding the script, the transit agency spokesman says, "BART oversees the content so BART is not portrayed in a way that BART does not want to be portrayed." The city and transit agency have been keeping the film details close to the vest.

"I think it would it has to do with how the case turned out, the controversy behind the case, and what kind of appearance it would give the city of Oakland with this movie itself," said Cephus Johnson, Oscar Grant's uncle.

"I'm believing that it's going to be a success and it will be a teaching tool for others to learn and see that when police are in a tight situation, it doesn't have to end in murder," said Wanda.

BART Officer Johannes Mehserle was acquitted of murder, but convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Officials with BART and the Oakland Film Commission told us if we wanted information about permits and the deal with producers, we would have to make a public records request. We plan to do that.

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