Published 12:00 am Monday, March 18, 2013

SALISBURY — A controversial Rowan County commissioners meeting and filming for a TV pilot coexisted Monday night without incident.
The city barricaded nearly 12 blocks of downtown Salisbury for the Fox TV pilot “Sleepy Hollow” at 6 p.m., just as more than 100 people gathered to hear commissioners discuss a lawsuit filed against Rowan County for sectarian prayer by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Commission Chairman Jim Sides read a statement from the Rowan County Economic Development Commission asking meeting participants to avoid disturbing the filming process as they left, noting the project is “substantially benefitting” the local economy.
“It is a unique opportunity to have a film crew here, and we certainly want to accommodate them the best we can,” Sides said.
Later Monday night, Sides told the Post the filming did not cause a problem for people who wanted to attend the meeting, where commission Vice Chairman Craig Pierce answered the ACLU lawsuit by praying in the name of his “lord and savior.”
While a few attendees indicated they had a hard time finding a place to park, nobody really complained, Sides said.
Three blocks of Main and Church street and four blocks of Innes Street will close for filming every night this week at 6 p.m. and will reopen at 7 a.m.
Film crews worked throughout the day and night Monday to transform Salisbury into Sleepy Hollow, including two prop cop cars that arrived on a flatbed truck bearing the logo of the fictional Sleepy Hollow Sheriff’s Department.
The Salisbury Post has become the Sleepy Hollow Register, and the front yard at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, where much of the filming will take place, has been transformed into a Revolutionary War-era cemetery.
Crews filmed on West Innes Street Monday night. Around 10 p.m., a Sleepy Hollow cop car raced toward the Confederate Monument, whipped around and screeched to a stop in front of Ichabod Crane, who fell to his knees at gunpoint and was arrested.
British actor Tom Mison stars as Ichabod Crane, who wakes up in a modern-day Sleepy Hollow 200 years after slaying a soldier on the battlefield. The soldier — the headless horseman — also returns from the dead, seeking revenge.
Monday night, Crane was bare-chested in Revolutionary War garb, including a long jacket, dark pants and knee-high boots. Crew members tousled his long locks and touched up his make-up between takes.
The pilot is set in both the 1800s and modern day, with law enforcement agent Crane and the villainous horseman traveling through time to do battle between good and evil.
Salisbury is one of several 20th Century Fox filming locations in the Charlotte region.
City spokeswoman Elaney Hasselmann said the city tried to strike a balance Monday between making sure people had access to the county meeting and accommodating the film crew.
If 20th Century Fox has a good experience working in Salisbury and the pilot gets picked up as a TV series, Salisbury would become a permanent backdrop in “Sleepy Hollow,” Hasselmann said.
“We want them to come back,” she said.
Filming will require more street closures in Salisbury at one time than ever before, said Wendy Brindle, city traffic engineer.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.