In the fall of 2010, Twentieth Century Fox’s X-Men: First Class began filming on Jekyll Island, Georgia. The scenes called for a massive crashed air-craft, a beached submarine, hundreds of non-native palm trees, and fires burning in the background–no small demand on the delicate eco-system of Jekyll Island’s quiet beaches. Yet, in spite of these challenges, the X-Men: First Class team was able to completely restore the beach and preserve native habitats and wildlife.
When filming began, the local community voiced their concern that such a high-impact production would leave their beaches damaged and run-down. “Considering that an individual could be issued a citation and fined for driving a small car on the beach or pulling a handful of sea oats from the dunes, it’s astounding that… [local authorities] would allow this activity to proceed,” wrote David Kyler, the Executive Director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, in an Op-Ed piece for the Atlanta Constitution.
The production team was highly sensitive to these issues. X-Men: First Class location manager Maida Morgan led the efforts to restore the beach after filming concluded, giving presentations to local authorities and seeking counsel from sustainability experts. “I give a lot of credit to Fox,” Morgan told Producers’ Guild magazine Produced By. “Their head of sustainability, Lisa Day, was involved in the restoration plan from a very early stage. She and the head of production, Mike Hendrickson, said they really wanted to ‘get this right.'”
Morgan worked with Mike Demell and his team from Environmental Services in Savannah to bring the appropriate sand to re-sculpt the beach, diaper all hydraulic and fuel lines to prevent oil spills, re-plant more than 30,000 plants, install a sprinkler system to ensure their growth, and clean up the Styrofoam and plastic debris that remained after the set was torn down.
Local authorities say that the team left the beach in even better condition than when they found it. “It was a challenging project,” Demell said. “But Fox really met that challenge… This was unusual for a studio to make that commitment on the front end, knowing what it would cost on the back end. It was very classy!””
For more information on X-Men: First Class and its filming on Jekyll Island, check out the September/October issue of Produced By.