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Empire City Hits the Jackpot for Filmmakers

Empire City Casino and Showtime’s “Billions,” Damian Lewis’ character, Bobby Axelrod (aka Axe)In season 2 of Showtime's "Billions," Damian Lewis' character, Bobby Axelrod (aka Axe), is spotted at his hometown racetrack in Yonkers. The iconic "Empire City" neon sign glows behind the moody hedge fund mogul... Is this real, or just Hollywood magic?

Real! For "Billions," authenticity is key. So when "Axe" needed to head home to Yonkers, the producers reached out to film-friendly Empire City Casino (ECC) in Westchester County to shoot the scene.

We connected with the ECC team to find out what makes the location such a hot spot for film.

It all started with "The Flamingo Kid"...
According to Taryn Duffy, Director of Public Affairs, "ECC's film history dates back to 1984, when the "The Flamingo Kid" filmed at the racetrack. Since then, the property's nearly 100 acres—which includes sports bars, the historic race track, an Italian restaurant, bowling alleys, banquet spaces, private lounges, barns, multipurpose rooms, kitchens, stages and more—have attracted a diverse range of projects," Duffy said. Located within the NYC Film Zone (not more than 30 miles from Columbus Circle), the property has long been very attractive to scouts and producers. Also a plus, ECC has enough parking to accommodate 5,000 cars. "Parking is never a problem here,"Ms. Duffy adds.

The odds-on favorite...
The diversity of ECC's spaces make it a one-stop-shop for filming. Recent film shoots include Showtime's Billions (2016), Hulu's The Path (2016), Sneaky Pete by Topanga Productions (2015), Unforgettable by Woodridge Productions/Sony Pictures (2015), Mysteries of Laura (2014) by Warner Bros., Lionsgate's Girl Most Likely (2012), and USA Network's Royal Pains (2011). Essie Nail Polish also filmed their anniversary commercial and Instagram videos onsite.

ECC offers all types of catering services, and the staff is familiar with the demands of the filming industry and can usually accommodate special requests. Its generous parking lots are also a great space for holding equipment trailers and/or talent trailers, parking etc.

What happens behind the scenes...
When "Billions" requested a horse and driver for one of the scenes, an actual horse and driver that races at Yonkers Raceway was featured in the show. While shooting "Fast & Furious," the stunt doubles used Empire City's parking lot to practice the driving sequence for the scene shot in Times Square in the movie.

Celebrity watching at Empire City...
Aaron Paul, (Breaking Bad) recently shot for the series, "The Path," at ECC at one of its slot machines and actually won $300 during the scene. In addition to the cast of shows filmed at ECC, many celebrities can also be spotted enjoying the facilities. Celebrity visitors have included Harry Connick Jr., Bethenny Frankel, Hannah Davis Jeter, Willie Mays, Julius Erving, Allen Iverson, Don Zimmer, Mickey Rivers, Mike Torrez, Orlando Hernandez, Cullen Jenkins & Mike Patterson former New York Giants, lala Anthony, Paula Dean.

Empire City supports the film industry...
Empire City Casino hosted about 75 filmmakers and guests for the unveiling of the 100 films that have been selected for YoFiFest (Yonkers Film Festival), which took place in October. Another 'film fam tour' is in the works for the summer, and Empire City will proudly host the unveiling of the film selections for the YoFiFest again this fall.

Jordan Bowes of “Madam Secretary” (CBS) Shares His Insights on Filming in Westchester

Madame SecretaryIt’s Sunday night, and you’re tuned into “Madam Secretary.” Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord’s plane touches down at Houari Boumediene Airport in Algiers. Or did it? Actually, you’re seeing our very own Westchester County Airport on the screen, one of the many locations the show has used here during its three seasons. Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up with Jordan Bowes, Assistant Location Manager for “Madam Secretary,” to find out more about the show and what criteria location scouts use when making location decisions.

Q: Why do you find Westchester an appealing location for “Madame Secretary”?
A: JB—Our show is set not only in Washington, D.C., but also in cities across America and in many countries around the globe. While viewers might be surprised how many different cities and countries we’ve been able to recreate within the five boroughs of New York City, sometimes a script will call for a large-scale location or a location with certain geographical features that can’t be found in New York City. That’s where Westchester often comes in to help us bring our writers’ ideas to life.

Q: What Westchester County locations have been used for Madam Secretary?
Scene from Madam Secretary (CBS) shot at Westchester County AirportA: JB—We have filmed in many locations all over Westchester County. So far during Season Three, we have filmed at Million Air at the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, Aquario Restaurant in West Harrison, the West Harrison Fire Department (Ep. 302), The Ritz-Carlton Westchester and the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains (Ep. 306), Purchase Friends Meeting House in West Harrison, a private home in Purchase (Ep. 307), Sleepy Hollow Country Club (Ep. 310 & 313), a private home in Briarcliff Manor (Ep. 313), Croton Point Park (Ep. 315), Cross County Shopping Mall and Tibbett’s Brook Park in Yonkers, and V.I.P. Country Club in New Rochelle (Ep. 318). And we still have five more episodes left to film for Season Three, so I’m sure we’ll be back again soon.(See below for a list of locations for Seasons 1 - 2.)

Q: When you choose to shoot in Westchester, what drives the decision?
A: JB—The decision to film in Westchester is driven by the same process that determines why we film at any given location, which is to find the best setting possible for each scene based upon the shared vision of our Production Designer and each episode's Director. When we pick someplace, it's based on merit.

Scene from Madam Secretary (CBS) shot at Westchester County AirportQ: How have cast and crew been received when you're shooting here?
A: JB—The cast and crew have been very well received when we've filmed in Westchester. The majority of our locations have been private spaces where we don't necessarily have much interaction with the public, but Westchester residents have thus far seemed supportive when we film in their parks, restaurants, and other businesses, and we hope that they enjoy seeing places they know on television.

Q: When shooting here, do you eat in local restaurants, stay in local hotels, or hire local vendors?
A: JB—It varies from shoot to shoot, to be honest. We definitely eat in local restaurants every time we film in Westchester, especially the prep/wrap crews that get our sets ready a day or two before the shooting crew arrives and strike our sets a day or two after filming is completed. Almost all of our crewmembers are residents of the tri-state area, and our stages are located in Long Island City, Queens and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, so we don't have as much of a need for hotel rooms as an out-of-town production might. That said, it does happen from time to time, and as a show that films in a lot of hotels, "Madam Secretary" is open to filming in more Westchester hotels than we have so far. Regarding vendors, the Locations Department often rents tents, tables and chairs, light towers, and air conditioner/heater units for logistical support.

Q: Do you consider Westchester to be "film-friendly?"
A: JB—I absolutely consider Westchester to be film-friendly! On "Madam Secretary" alone, we have had a few dozen successful film shoots made possible by people willing to work with us from logistical and administrative standpoints. It also helps that the overwhelming majority of people with whom I've had the pleasure of working have been actually-friendly, too.

Q: Is there anything you'd tell fellow location scouts about Westchester that they may not know?
A: JB—There are plenty of location scouts that have been in the film business longer than I have and who know Westchester better than I do, so I'm not sure if I should be offering anyone advice. The only thing I'd say is that if I'm stuck looking for something that I just can't seem to find on my own, I've rarely gone wrong asking a local. Even if they can't help me find exactly what I'm looking for, they can usually recommend a great place to grab a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.

Q: Can you give us any inside scoop about Madam Secretary or what viewers can look forward to in the new season?
A: JB—As fans of the show know, we're always topical. And our writers have hit the nail on the head again this season with stories that are just now hitting the news. Tune in on Sundays for more!

Season One Locations:
•    Westchester County Airport in White Plains
•    Rudy’s Bar & Bistro in Rye (Ep. 101)
•    Untermeyer Park & Gardens and Alder Manor in Yonkers (Ep. 111)
•    Private homes in White Plains (Ep. 114 and in Mamaroneck (Ep. 116)
•    Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Briarcliff Manor (Ep. 120)

Season Two Locations:
•    Black Rock Park in Croton-On-Hudson (Ep. 206)
•    Most Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers
•    Yonkers City Hall (Ep. 207)
•    An apartment building, an office complex, and O’Boyle Park in Yonkers (Ep. 208)
•    Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Briarcliff Manor
•    A private home in Sleepy Hollow (Ep. 209)
•    The Lake Street Granite Quarry in Harrison
•    Copy Fax Office Equipment Center, Argonaut Diner, and two private homes in Yonkers (Ep. 217)
•    Brookside Mini Golf and St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers
•    Kensico Dam in Valhalla (Ep. 223).

The Year in (Westchester County) Film

The AffairThe crowd is hushed, the envelope torn, a glittering star pronounces the winner, and it is... Westchester County!

Each year, Westchester County plays a prime role in top feature films, thoughtful Indies, award winning television and cable shows, and scores of commercials and videos. While some might thrill to the reveal of a fresh crop of Oscar and Emmy contenders, we here in Westchester anxiously await the two thumbs up from another source—County Executive Robert P. Astorino.

"I won't go as far as saying that our Westchester locations guarantee Golden Globes or Emmys, but we have a pretty impressive track record of being the destination of choice for the best of the best," he notes.

Here, for your consideration, are County Executive Astorino's picks for the top screen moments in Westchester County in 2016:

  • "The Girl On The Train" (Dreamworks Pictures/Universal): This psychological thriller owed its idyllic suburban exterior scenes to locations in Tarrytown, Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings-on-Hudson, Ardsley, and White Plains.
  • "The Affair" (Showtime) Scenes from this tale about the destruction of two marriages were set in Yonkers, with prison scenes filmed at Westchester County Correctional Facility.
  • "Homeland" (Showtime): This hit drama often finds itself in Westchester for filming, and in 2016, the show filmed at Westchester County Correctional Facility.
  • "Divorce" (HBO): Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Hayden Church untied the knot against the beautiful backgrounds of Hastings on Hudson and Saxon Woods this year.
  • "Elementary" (CBS): This show, starring Lucy Liu, has filmed in various spots around the county, including White Plains. Scenes this year were shot in Saxon Woods and in the Pleasantville Diner.
  • "The Americans" (FX): When searching for picture perfect American settings, it's no surprise that Westchester County was the location of choice for this spy drama. This year, the show filmed at Playland and Croton Gorge Park.
  • "Mr. Robot" (USA Network): This Golden Globe winning, Emmy nominated show put its vigilante hackers in the historic setting of Lenoir Mansion in Hastings on Hudson.
  • "Madam Secretary" (CBS): Both Kensico Dam Plaza and Tibbetts Brook Park were Westchester County backdrops in this political drama starring Tea Leoni.
  • "Blind Spot" (NBC): The mystery behind this FBI drama slowly unraveled in locations around Westchester County, including Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers.
  • "The Blacklist" (NBC): This crime drama starring James Spader is a frequent visitor to Westchester. 2016 was no exception, as the cast and crew headed to Glen Island Beach in New Rochelle for filming.

From beautiful parks and shorelines to historic Main Streets, suburban neighborhoods, and busy urban sites, the County has earned a reputation as a film location of choice for the industry's top producers. The reason? According to County Executive Astorino, Westchester's allure is largely due to its outstanding location and its film location services.

"The county is incredibly attractive for filming because it offers so many unique locations without having to travel far," he says. In addition to backdrops that let scenes shift effortlessly from urban to bucolic, present day to retro, Westchester is also a peaceful place for weary cast and crew to rest after a long day's shoot. "Our stunning hotels not only serve as great locations, they also offer a comfortable retreat for everyone to stay."

Westchester County delivers an added bonus to production crews: its Tourism & Film team has a sophisticated understanding of the industry's needs, and provides expert service to facilitate production in Westchester.

While awards and accolades aren't guaranteed by simply filming in Westchester, according to Mr. Astorino, it certainly doesn't hurt.

"Producers should come to Westchester to be in stellar company. You never know, you might end up on my list next year, or even better, you might end up at the Oscars!"

Ready for Their Moment: Westchester’s Hotels Welcome Film Crews and Stars

If you had wandered into the Westchester Marriott 's parking lot recently, you might have sworn you were in a time warp. Some 40-year-old Ford Torinos and Volkswagens filled a section of the lot. Nearby, dull green-fringed poolside umbrellas replaced brightly colored ones and inside, 1970s-era furniture transformed the lobby. A new decorating scheme? Hardly. Stagers were readying the place for a production crew to film scenes of the upcoming HBO movie The Bleeder, starring Liev Schreiber.

It was an easy fit, said hotel Director of Operations Gary Byrne, as the hotel was built in 1980, but in a style that still suited the previous decade.

Like the Marriott, Westchester hotels are open for business when it comes to filming movies, TV shows and commercials. And Westchester County's film office staff is always eager to help. So, when the script calls for a hotel room, a pool or ballroom, hotels here get ready for action.

Set in urban centers such as New Rochelle and White Plains, and in suburban and even rural communities throughout the county, hotels offer production companies the same benefits the hospitality industry offers everyone – plenty of space for parking (often including trailers), and a staff that is used to fulfilling requests with a smile.

Even when the filming takes place somewhere off-site, the hotels make convenient and comfortable lodging for cast and crew. While filming the 2007 finale of the HBO hit The Sopranos, cast members stayed at the Marriott, Byrne recalled.

"They were coming back from the set still in character," he said.

When Lucy Liu, who is a single mother as well as an actress, stayed recently at the Westchester Marriott, she asked for an extra room for her baby sitter, Byrne said. The request, which is not an unusual one, was easily filled.

Westchester's history in film is well-known. Playland Amusement Park in Rye was the site where the boy in 1988's Big found a mechanical fortune-teller to grant his wish to grow up (into Tom Hanks). Sing Sing Correctional Facility has been in many movies (generally typecast as a prison). But hotels have also had their moments of fame in well-known movies.

Much of the 1970 hit Lovers and Other Strangers was filmed at The DoubleTree by Hilton in Tarrytown, said General Manager Richard Friedman. The staff still talks about it, he said. More recently, the DoubleTree doubled as a hotel in Virginia as the Fox show The Following with Kevin Bacon filmed an escape sequence, according to Friedman.

Westchester hotels are also popular locations for commercial shoots, he added, recalling an American Express commercial filmed poolside at the DoubleTree two years ago. Hotel managers say they find it easy to accommodate the crews and directors to allow the shooting to take place while guests continue to enjoy their stay. "They're very good to work with," Friedman said of the crews.

The filming is good for the hotels, too, Byrne said. "It suits them and it suits us," he said. "The guests get a kick out of it." The guests are OK with reasonable restrictions to keep them from interfering with the filming even if they can't entirely resist the urge to see what's going on.

"They're looking for Tom Cruise," Byrne said.

Westchester Native Chance Kelly to Film ‘Inside Fighter’ Here at Home

Chance KellyChance Kelly is an actor you probably recognize but whose name you may not know. But you should. After 20+ years in the business and with over 70 acting credits to his name, Kelly is one of the hardest working actors in TV and film. He has nailed roles in high-profile projects like Clint Eastwood's 2014 Iraq war drama, American Sniper, and other feature films including The Taking of Pelham 123, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Unbreakable. His television work includes his breakout role in Generation Kill, plus roles in House of Cards, The Blacklist, and Homeland. Most recently, he played Detective Ed Cutler (opposite actor David Duchovny) on NBC's Aquarius, a cop drama about the 1960s Los Angeles police investigation that led to Charles Manson and his family. The show—and Kelly's character—was just picked up for a second season.

Surviving into Season Two is good news for Kelly, who has played seven different characters on seven different Law and Order episodes, and posted photos of himself on social media with the hashtag, #LetChanceKellyLive. "They usually bring me in and kill me off pretty quickly," quips Kelly.

Luckily for the entertainment world, Kelly stuck with acting, and is now trying his hand at producing films, starting with his own script, Inside Fighter, which he plans to begin filming in Westchester County in early 2016. He'll play Billy "Bomb" Hayes, an aging ex-boxer, down on his luck, who is trying to reorder his life and relationship with his 10-year-old son. The film will open with shots of one of Westchester's best-known iconic film locations, Rye Playland, says Kelly, a former amateur boxer himself. The rest will be filmed throughout the county.

"Westchester is almost like a character in the film," says the actor, who grew up in Armonk, attended Byram Hills High School and now lives in New Rochelle with his wife and three children. With its great diversity of people and locations, Westchester is "a very interesting backdrop for any story," adds Kelly. He's simultaneously working on another screenplay set in Westchester County, about a lacrosse team, which focuses on themes of love and family.

In the meantime, Kelly is set (and excited) to begin shooting Season Two of Aquarius in November. Kelly says about working on the show, "David Duchovny is the brand, and we are all working with him to support the show. But he's totally cool and down to earth. I hope my character, who is a bit of a hothead, will develop into a more complex character next season."

TV Shows Filmed in Westchester Earn 28 Emmy Nominations

Yonkers street turned into a turn-of-the-century cityscape It's another strong year in Emmy nominations for television shows filmed in Westchester, with Orange is the New Black coming up big in the top categories, including outstanding drama series and best supporting actress. The Good Wife, The Americans, The Blacklist, and Boardwalk Empire are other top shows that snagged nominations, signaling the quality of film productions happening in Westchester County.

"When popular shows like these are recognized, it spotlights Westchester County, where the film and television industry is alive and well—and growing bigger each year," says County Executive Rob Astorino. "We congratulate all of the talented professionals whose hard work led to the nominations and we are hoping for big Emmy wins in September."

Westchester County attracts film and TV production because of its film-friendly climate and the diversity of location options, says Natasha Caputo, director of Westchester County Tourism & Film.

"You'll find just about any backdrop required —from small town scenes and urban landscapes, to sweeping river views, historic mansions, a film-friendly airport, jail, and several hotels," she notes. "We work very closely with industry professionals to find just the right location to meet their needs. We're proud of the work they do here, which also has a positive economic impact on our local economy."

In the image above, the location team transformed a Yonkers street into a turn of the century cityscape for The Knick (Cinemax), which earned several Emmy nominations including best directing, hairstyling, and makeup. Left to right: Jordan Bowes, Location Manager Rob Striem, Christopher Wos, and Hyo Park.

The 67th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will air Sunday, Sept. 20, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, hosted by Andy Samberg and broadcast live on Fox.

And the Emmy nominations for shows filmed in Westchester go to:

Outstanding Drama Series
"Orange is the New Black"

Supporting Actress, Drama
Christine Baranski, "The Good Wife"
Uzo Aduba, "Orange Is The New Black"

Guest Actor, Drama
Alan Alda, "The Blacklist"
Michael J. Fox, "The Good Wife"
Pablo Schreiber, "Orange Is The New Black

Guest Actress, Drama
Margo Martindale, "The Americans"

Supporting Actor, Comedy
Adam Driver, "Girls"

Guest Actress, Comedy
Gaby Hoffmann, "Girls"

Writing for a Drama Series
Joshua Brand for The Americans, "Do Mail Robots Dream Of Electric Sheep?" from FX Networks, Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions

Directing for a Drama Series
Tim Van Patten for Boardwalk Empire, "Eldorado" from HBO, HBO Entertainment in association with Leverage, Closest to the Hole Productions, Sikelia Productions and Cold Front Productions

Steven Soderbergh for The Knick, "Method And Madness" from Cinemax, Cinemax Entertainment in association with Ambeg Screen Products, Anonymous Content and Extension 765

Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series
Jennifer Euston for "Orange Is The New Black" from Netflix, Lionsgate Television for Netflix

Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series
Boardwalk Empire • Golden Days For Boys And Girls • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Leverage, Closest to the Hole Productions, Sikelia Productions and Cold Front Productions, Jonathan Freeman, ASC, Director of Photography

The Good Wife • The Line • CBS • Eye Productions in association with Scott Free Productions and King Size Productions
Fred Murphy, ASC, Director of Photography

Outstanding Costumes for a Period/Fantasy Series, Limited Series Or Movie
Boardwalk Empire • Golden Days For Boys And Girls • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Leverage, Closest to the Hole Productions, Sikelia Productions and Cold Front Productions
John Dunn, Costume Designer
Maria Zamansky, Assistant Costume Designer
James P. Hammer, Jr., Assistant Costume Designer
Joseph LaCorte, Assistant Costume Designer

Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series
Boardwalk Empire • Eldorado • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Leverage, Closest to the Hole Productions, Sikelia Productions and Cold Front Productions
Francesca Paris, Department Head Hairstylist
Lisa De Jesus, Key Hairstylist
Sarah Stamp, Key Hairstylist

The Knick • Get The Rope • Cinemax • Cinemax Entertainment in association with Ambeg Screen Products, Anonymous Content and Extension 765
Jerry DeCarlo, Department Head Hairstylist
Rose Chatterton, Key Hairstylist
Suzy Mazzarese Allison, Personal Hairstylist
Victor De Nicola, Hairstylist
Christine Cantrell, Hairstylist

Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)
Boardwalk Empire • What Jesus Said • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Leverage, Closest to the Hole Productions, Sikelia Productions and Cold Front Productions
Michele Paris, Department Head Makeup Artist
Joe Farulla, Key Makeup Artist
Game Of Thrones • Mother's Mercy • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with

The Knick • Method And Madness • Cinemax • Cinemax Entertainment in association with Ambeg Screen Products, Anonymous Content and Extension 765
Nicki Ledermann, Department Head Makeup Artist
Stephanie Pasicov, Key Makeup Artist
Sunday Englis, Key Makeup Artist
Cassandra Saulter, Makeup Artist
Michael Laudati, Makeup Artist
LuAnn Claps, Personal Makeup Artist
Patricia Keighran, Key Makeup Artist
Susan Reilly-Lehane, Personal Makeup Artist

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie, or a Special
Boardwalk Empire • The Good Listener • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Leverage, Closest to the Hole Productions, Sikelia Productions and Cold Front Productions
Michele Paris, Department Head Makeup Artist
Joe Farulla, Key Makeup Artist

The Knick • Crutchfield • Cinemax • Cinemax Entertainment in association with Ambeg Screen Products, Anonymous Content and Extension 765
Justin Raleigh, Special Makeup Effects Department Head
Kevin Kirkpatrick, Key Special Makeup Effects Artist
Kelly Golden, Special Makeup Effects Artist
Ozzy Alvarez, Special Makeup Effects Artist
Danielle Noe, Special Makeup Effects Artist
Bernie Eichholz, Special Makeup Effects Artist
Michael Ezell, Special Makeup Effects Artist
Kodai Yoshizawa, Special Makeup Effects Artist

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series
Boardwalk Empire • The Good Listener • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Leverage, Closest to the Hole Productions, Sikelia Productions and Cold Front Productions
Fred Rosenberg, Supervising Sound Editor
Bill Orrico, Sound Editor
Roland Vajs, Sound Editor
Ruy Garcia, Sound Effects Editor
Jeffrey Stern, Dialogue Editor
Annette Kudrak, Music Editor
Steve Visscher, Foley Editor
Mark Costanzo, Foley Artist
Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role
Boardwalk Empire • Golden Days For Boys And Girls • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Leverage, Closest to the Hole Productions, Sikelia Productions and Cold Front Productions
Lesley Robson-Foster, VFX Supervisor
Parker Chehak, VFX Producer
Douglas Purver, Compositor
Paul Graff, VFX Supervisor
John Bair, VFX Supervisor
Greg Radcliffe, Digital Artist
Rebecca Dunn, Compositing Supervisor
Aaron Raff, Lead Digital Artist
Steven Kirshoff, Special Effects Forman

Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series Or Movie
The Blacklist • NBC • Davis Entertainment in association with Sony Pictures Television
Cort L. Hessler III, Stunt Coordinator

Boardwalk Empire • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Leverage, Closest to the Hole Productions, Sikelia Productions and Cold Front Productions
Christopher Place, Stunt Coordinator

Lights! Camera! Commercials!

Westchester County Parks such as Glen Island Park offer versatile backdrops and quick turnaround times often needed for commercial shoots. Photo credit: Larry HorodnerFrom The Wolf of Wall Street and Winter’s Tale, to Inside Llewyn Davis and Ricki and The Flash, Westchester County is no stranger to the big screen. But what you may not know is that Westchester offers world-class backdrops for businesses to film their commercials for the smaller screen.

“I’ve worked on literally thousands of commercials for television and print, and I love working in Westchester,” says veteran location scout, Ernie Karpeles (he’s been in the business 35 years!). “It’s close to New York City, easy to get to, and easy to navigate once you’re here. Plus the Westchester County Tourism & Film Office really understands the needs of the industry.”

Karpeles recently scouted Westchester and helped select the county’s Glen Island Park for a shoot for Optimum. The story called for a medieval village and Karpeles saw potential among the ruins of the site’s late-19th-century castle, which once served as a beer garden and restaurant at the summer resort once located on the island. “You take a lot into consideration when scouting—aesthetics, lighting, parking, logistics—so, I thought that particular backdrop would work if we just added a few medieval huts,” Karpeles said, adding that Westchester County Parks were among several county locations offering the quick turnaround needed for business. “The Tourism & Film office made it happen.”

With the addition of a few medieval huts, Glen Island Park and its late-19th Century castle were transformed into the medieval village for a commercial shoot. Photo credit: Laura BerningThe production also called for scenes at a train station, and a baseball field, also available in Westchester. Larry Horodner, location manager for the Optimum shoot, had this to say: "From scouting to permitting and filming on location, working in Westchester was a smooth-running and positive experience. Everyone loved the location—which has a lot to offer creatively, and logistically. I plan on coming back to Westchester."

In addition to the county’s prime location and film-friendly towns, a major reason to film in Westchester is the wide range of looks available, adds Karpeles, who has filmed everything from urban downtowns and suburban streets to farm animals, waterfalls, and romantic bridges—all in Westchester. His commercial projects include a yoy commercial at Ardsley’s House of Sports; a lightbulb commercial at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation; a PSA with Mariano Rivera at Yonkers’ Tibbetts Brook Park; a NBA commercial set in Maine but filmed at Peekskill’s Bear Mountain Bridge; an election commercial for a political candidate at locations throughout the Westchester which represented locations all over New York State.

For more information on filming in Westchester, contact us. The Tourism & Film Office in Westchester County is a division within County Executive Robert P. Astorino’s Office of Economic Development.

FFF: Future Filmmakers Festival

Future FilmmakersHere’s a chance to view work by up and coming talent when the Picture House showcases productions by teens from Westchester County.

One minute they’re feeling euphoric and joyful, the next, sad and tearful. Such is the emotional state of teenagers, for whom emotional highs and lows are routine. But here’s some interesting news: Talented teens from high schools across Westchester County have channeled those very emotions and feelings—from romantic and rebellious to jubilance – and produced 27 poignant short films that will be included in the Westchester County Future Filmmaker’s Festival, presented by The Matthew S. Hisiger Film Foundation, The Picture House Regional Film Center, and Westchester County. Westchester audiences will have a chance to view this remarkable work this Sunday, April 26, from 2:30 – 5:30 p.m. at The Picture House in Pelham.

"We are so proud of our filmmakers, who are taking risks with their creativity, exposing their emotions, and using technology in their work,” said Dale Hisiger, executive director of the Matthew S. Hisiger Film Foundation and former Board Member of The Picture House. “It is a privilege to provide the venue for them to share their work with the community."

Westchester County is a proud partner of the Future Filmmaker’s Festival, along with The Picture House and the Matthew S. Hisinger Film Foundation. Supporting the festival is part of Westchester County Tourism & Film’s efforts to promote local filmmakers and Westchester’s film friendly communities and array of backdrops. Hisinger added that Westchester’s support of this festival—and other educational programs like it—make Westchester a great place to foster creativity.

The Future Filmmaker’s Festival spotlights short films featuring a range of genres including narrative, documentary, comedy, drama, and musicals. The festival culminates with an awards ceremony when the “Chester”—Westchester’s Oscar—will be awarded to the top three film submissions. The event is also family-friendly: Films do not exceed 10 minutes and are rated PG.

Tickets are available at www.thepicturehouse.org and at The Picture House box office on the day of the event. Ticket prices are $7.00 for adults, $3.00 for students, and children under age five are admitted free of charge. There will be free street parking and additional space is available at the Pelham Metro-North train station, which is within walking distance of The Picture House.

For more information about the festival or to buy tickets, visit The Picture House.

Location Spotlight: Westchester County Parks

Glen Island BridgeNeed just the right location? Westchester Parks offer versatile backdrops for filming and are a location manager’s paradise.

The parks include a 300-foot high dam, secluded woodlands, open meadows, a 1900s gentleman’s farm, historic homes, golf courses, pools, and an island connected to a bustling city by a 1920s drawbridge in the middle of the Long Island Sound. It’s hard to imagine more versatile locations.

“Westchester’s locations that can stand in for just about anything,” said James Caponera, director of Westchester County Parks, who’s a 37-year veteran of the parks system.

And they have. The Glen Island Bridge stood in for a bridge in St. Petersburg, Russia, in an episode of the CBS science fiction drama, Person of Interest. The forest in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation was the setting for Richard Harrow’s suicidal scene in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. The Reservation’s grassy meadow served as a dog park in a Blue Buffalo pet food commercial.

Westchester County ParkSuburban Saxon Woods Park in Scarsdale was transformed into a secluded wooded area with an abandoned cabin for HBO’s The Leftovers, perfect for some of the show’s unsettling scenes. And it’s not just filmmakers who are attracted to this county; Westchester’s parks have graced the pages of Vogue and fashion retailer websites like Urban Outfitters.

“The aesthetics are great and it’s really practical to film here,” explains Caponera. “The parks are beautiful, for sure, but they also offer parking necessary for productions using multiple trucks full of equipment, with enough room for cast and crew members’ cars. In fact, Fox’s The Following used Saxon Woods Park six times as a base camp for meals, and to park over 60 vehicles.”

Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River is one of the most popular park sites, because of its size (4,300 acres) and diverse landscape (trout streams, mountain vistas, wooded areas, and a bucolic meadow), according to Jeff Main, park superintendent, and director of the conservation program. He works with location and production manages to ensure their expectations for filming are met while the rich biodiversity of the county’s parks is preserved.

Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross RiverWhile location managers appreciate the beauty offered by Westchester’s parks, Main said he appreciates when productions respect their natural surroundings—in fact, some county parks have benefited permanently from filming.

When HBO built a cabin in Saxon Woods for The Leftovers, they brought in plantings that were ultimately donated to the park. When filming War of the Worlds, production crews made shoreline improvements to Croton Point Park. After filming Boardwalk Empire, HBO contributed to the planting of a new white oak tree, replacing a 400-year old oak destroyed by lightning. It is this mutual appreciation that makes the relationship between parks and Hollywood work, said Main.

“We love working with the film industry,” he said. “Whether it’s a photo shoot, or a film, television, or commercial production, the end results shine a light on the beauty that abounds in Westchester County.”

15 Holiday Releases: It Happened in Westchester

 Martin Scorsese directed Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street," released Christmas Day, 2013.When you’ve had enough of the holiday spirit—and, let’s face it, need a break from all that family togetherness—there’s nothing like a Hollywood blockbuster to cure your post-holiday blues.

Luckily, movie-goers have plenty of options during the holiday season. December is a popular time for new Hollywood blockbusters and holiday-themed films, as studios rush to release their titles for awards eligibility and to capture an audience during the holiday season, when more movie-goers are home from work and school and have time to head out to local movie theaters. Several Oscar-winning films produced over the past decade (and earlier) were filmed in Westchester County, including the "Wolf of Wall Street," "Inside Llewyn Davis," and "Catch Me if You Can." In addition, holiday favorites, "The Family Man," and "The Preacher's Wife" were filmed in Westchester.

“Throughout the years, blockbusters filmed in Westchester County have been a hit during the holiday season,” said Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino. “From romance and drama to thriller and comedy, there is an impressive list of award-winning films for everyone in the family to enjoy.”

Check out the 15 holiday movie releases filmed in Westchester, and the towns in which they filmed:

Inside Llewyn Davis, Dec. 3, 2013, Ward Pound Ridge Reservation; Cross River
Wolf of Wall Street Dec. 25, 2013 - Ardsley, White Plains
Rabbit Hole, Dec. 17, 2010, Yonkers
It's Complicated, Dec. 23, 2009, Hastings-on-Hudson
I am Legend, Dec. 14, 2007, Somers
The Good Shepherd, Dec. 22, 2006, Tarrytown
Mona Lisa Smile, Dec. 19, 2003, Yonkers
Catch Me if You Can, Dec. 25, 2002, Yonkers
Two Weeks Notice, Dec. 20, 2002, Donald Trump's home in Bedford
Maid in Manhattan, Dec. 13, 2002, Yonkers
Analyze That, Dec. 6, 2002, Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, Yonkers
The Family Man, Dec. 22, 2001, Sleepy Hollow
Kate & Leopold, Dec. 25, 2001, Yonkers
Stepmom, Dec, 25, 1998, Bronxville, Rye
The Preacher's Wife, Dec. 13, 1996, Yonkers

See the complete list of movies filmed in Westchester County.

Television Shows Filmed in Westchester Earn 9 Golden Globe Nominations

Julianna Margulies: Golden Globe nominee in "The Good Wife"Dec. 12, 2014 --  While the entertainment world is abuzz over the actors, writers, producers, directors, and creative talent behind this year's Golden Globe-nominated films and television shows, Westchester County is proud of the acclaim that productions filmed here continue to attract.

The nominations were announced this week in Beverly Hills by Kate Beckinsale, two-time Golden Globe Award-nominee Peter Krause, Paula Patton, and Golden Globe-winner and five-time nominee Jeremy Piven.

The quality of the productions filming in Westchester is evident in the nine Golden Globe nominations they have received—and in the 29 Emmy nominations received by various series earlier this year. With so many attractive locations and a film-friendly climate, Westchester County offers tremendous assets to the film industry, including a diverse array of backdrops, and a welcoming environment for production staff and crews. Many of the nominated television shows have returned to Westchester to film multiple episodes—and in some cases, multiple seasons.

And the 2015 Golden Globe nominees from shows filmed in Westchester are:

Best Performance by an actor in a television series – Drama
Clive Owen, "The Knick"
James Spader, "The Blacklist"

Best Television Series – Drama
"The Good Wife," CBS

Best Television Series, Comedy or Musical
"Girls," HBO
"Orange is the New Black," Netflix

Best Performance by an actress in a television series, comedy or musical
Lena Dunham, "Girls"
Taylor Schilling, "Orange is the New Black"

Best Performance by an actress in a supporting role in a series, mini-series, or motion picture made for television
Uzo Aduba, "Orange is the New Black"

Best Performance by an actor in a supporting role in a series, mini-series, or motion picture made for television
Alan Cumming, "The Good Wife"

The 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards—once again be hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler—will air on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.

Westchester County Airport: Calling All Location Managers

Westchester County Airport (HPN), White Plains, NYIn film and television, airports are the setting for wild romantic gestures (picture the guy running through the terminal to catch the girl flying away forever), tense dramas and thrillers, and hilarious comedic moments. Remember Steve Martin’s infamous encounter with a ticket agent in Planes, Trains and Automobiles? Or, how about Ben Stiller, waiting for the gate agent to call his row for boarding in a nearly empty departure terminal in Meet the Parents? With the dramatic backdrop of jumbo jets taking off, it’s no surprise that scenes filmed in airports translate into some of film and television’s most memorable moments.

Location managers take note! It’s easy to film at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York. “There are no layers of bureaucracy here,” explains Stephen Ferguson, assistant airport manager. “We have a great relationship with Westchester County Tourism & Film. After filing a letter of intent with the office, we can get a contract done quickly and coordinate the production details. We’re easier than dealing with the Port Authority in New York City, and more affordable, too.”

Many others agree. Meet the Parents, This is Where I Leave You, and the upcoming The Family Fang, and The Great Gilly Hopkins all filmed scenes at this bustling regional airport. Popular television shows like The Blacklist regularly film there as well.

Corporate JetCommercial and Private Aircraft Rely on Westchester
There’s tremendous activity at the Westchester County Airport on a daily basis: 450 takeoffs and landings a day, including 84 scheduled flights with six commercial airlines according to Ferguson. The airport is home to 90 business jets and 280 light twin engine and single engine planes which may be used for filming.

“We have assets that are second to none,” says Ferguson. “We are one of the largest corporate airports in America,” he points out. “For productions looking to film scenes in private hangars and luxury jets, this is the place to be—New York City’s airports don’t offer filming with corporate jets. We’re seeing a lot of increased activity in this area, for example, Law and Order has used our business jets for filming.”

Ticket LobbyFilm Day or Night: “We never close.”
As for locations inside the terminal, Ferguson said productions have two great options: use the departure lounge, ticket lobby, and arrival/departure gate area from 10 p.m. until 3:30 a.m., or use the third floor of the terminal during the day and night.
“We never close, so if the night option is chosen, we can’t guarantee a flight won’t be delayed and an unexpected crowd won’t file through your production. However, it’s a great location that requires little set up. On the other hand, the third floor has great views of the tarmac, and productions can improvise and create their own custom baggage claim, ticket window and waiting area. That can be enticing, too.”

The airport can also accommodate student films, and is quite popular with students from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, as well as Purchase College SUNY students, who attend classes nearby. It’s also a popular place for photo shoots and commercials; Verizon and AT&T have recently filmed television spots, and several more companies have requested to film general airport footage.

“It’s always exciting to work with film and television crews,” says Ferguson. “We aim to be flexible and make the experience easy and productive for the industry.”

TV Shows Filmed in Westchester Earn 29 Emmy Nominations

TV Shows Filmed in Westchester Earn 29 Emmy NominationsAug. 15, 2014 -- While television viewers around the world gear up for the 66th Annual Emmy Awards Show on August 25, 2014, Westchester County, New York is beaming over the 29 Emmy nominations received by various series that have filmed here recently.

"From dramas to comedies, period pieces to courtroom thrillers, TV series filmed in Westchester cover it all," said County Executive Robert P. Astorino. "We congratulate the brilliant actors, directors, casting agents, editors, makeup artists, and all of the creative talent that have earned Emmy nominations this year. We'll be cheering for you on Aug. 25th."

Westchester County offers an array of attractive backdrops: parks, shorelines, historic Main Streets, suburban neighborhoods, an airport, colleges, historic mansions, and bustling urban areas. Several sound stages and post-production facilities have ample space in which to build sets, record, and edit. For example, Haven Studios in Mt. Vernon was recently transformed into the interior of a suburban residence and police station for the HBO/Warner Bros. Television show, "The Leftovers."

And the Emmy nominations for shows filmed in Westchester go to:

Best Comedy Series
"Orange is the New Black," Netflix

Best Actress in a Comedy Series
Lena Dunham, "Girls," HBO
Taylor Schilling, "Orange Is the New Black," Netflix

Best Actress in a Drama Series
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife," CBS

Supporting Actress, Comedy Series
Kate Mulgrew, "Orange Is the New Black," Netflix

Supporting Actor, Comedy Series
Adam Driver, "Girls," HBO

Supporting Actor, Drama Series
Josh Charles, "The Good Wife," CBS

Supporting Actress, Drama Series
Christine Baranski, "The Good Wife," CBS

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series
Margo Martindale as Claudia in "The Americans," FX

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Dylan Baker as Colin Sweeney in "The Good Wife," CBS

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
Natasha Lyone, "Orange is the New Black," Netflix
Laverne Cox, "Orange is the New Black," Netflix
Uza Adubo, "Orange is the New Black," Netflix

Outstanding Direction, Drama Series
Tim Van Patten, "Boardwalk Empire," HBO

Outstanding Direction, Comedy Series
Jodie Foster, "Orange is the New Black, "Netflix

Outstanding Art Direction for a Period Series, Miniseries or Movie
"Boardwalk Empire," HBO

Outstanding Costumes for a Series
"Boardwalk Empire," HBO

Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single Camera Series
"Boardwalk Empire," HBO

Outstanding Makeup for a Single Camera Series (Non-prosthetic)
"Boardwalk Empire," HBO

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie, or Special
"Boardwalk Empire," HBO

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series
"Boardwalk Empire," HBO

Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series
"The Good Wife," CBS

Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series
"Orange is the New Black," Netflix

Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series
"The Blacklist," NBC

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series
William Turro, "Orange is the New Black," Netflix
Michael Stern, "Orange is the New Black," Netflix
Shannon Mitchell, "Orange is the New Black," Netflix

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
"Orange is the New Black," Netflix

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Directed by Tim Van Patten – "Boardwalk Empire," HBO

"It's a terrific lineup," says Natasha Caputo, Director of Tourism and Film. "We're proud of the recognition that these shows have received, and are pleased to be working in concert with so many in the film industry, who recognize the tremendous assets and film-friendly climate available in Westchester County, and whose work benefits our local economy," said Caputo.


“Boardwalk Empire” Features Historic Castle on the Hudson

Greystone Court located in Yonkers, NYIt's a film location manager's dream: Panoramic views of the Hudson River, 28 period rooms with 300 years of history, and all of it only 25 minutes from Manhattan. It's no wonder that Greystone Court in Yonkers, New York, the gray granite castle, has become a sought-after filming destination for an array of productions, notably, HBO's crime period drama, "Boardwalk Empire," which airs its fifth and final season this fall.

"Greystone Court works for filming any time period in history, and for photo shoots, from mid-market to haute couture," said owner Kohle Yohannan, the museum curator, author, and art historian who purposefully restored the mansion over a ten-year period beginning in 2001. "Many of the rooms were imported in their entirety from 16th, 17th, and 18th century European mansions. Imagine! A private home in New York that has these mini-setups, ready to go."

The mansion is frequently splashed on the pages of fashion magazines, such as Vogue (including the American edition and several international versions), Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, and Allure. Besides "Boardwalk Empire," Greystone Court is also featured in scenes from CW's Gossip Girl, the feature films Gods Behaving Badly and Mona Lisa Smile, and Beyonce's music video for her hit song, Irreplaceable.

The ballroom at Greystone CourtA Horse in the Ballroom!
The mansion's grandeur combined with modern amenities makes Greystone Court a best bet for productions, said Yohannan. Built in the 1880s and expanded in the 1920s, the 14,500 square-foot home's rooms remind one of a European castle ¬– ballroom, chapel, billiard room, tea room, observatory, music room, tower room – they are enchanting! Add to those elegant dressing rooms, separate suites for celebrities, a catering kitchen, and production suite complete with hair and makeup chairs and garment racks, and you've got it made.

While Yohannen maintains the privacy of his clients, he will reveal some of the quirkier things that have happened at Greystone Court since he began marketing the mansion as a destination for filming.

"Having a horse in the ballroom, well, that was pretty unusual," he laughs.

Black oak Gothic panels frame a staircase in Greystone Court.Large productions, for example, are possible at Greystone Court because of cooperative relationships set up with neighboring organizations. Semi-truck and tractor-trailers are able to park in a nearby church parking lot. Other nearby locations attractive for filming are easy to get to, such as Untermyer Gardens, Tibbets Brook Park, and the Yonkers Train Station.

The City of Yonkers, the state's fourth largest city, is also easily accessible from major highways, commuter rail, and Amtrak.

For more information on Greystone Court, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or greystonecourt.com.

Lyndhurst Mansion in Westchester a Popular Location for Many Hollywood Productions

lyndhurstSnowWith its imposing Gothic Revival architecture and gorgeous perch overlooking the Hudson River, Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, NY is the dramatic backdrop for television shows, fashion and commercial shoots, and feature films—most recently, Showtime's "Seven Deadly Sins" starring Morgan Spurlock, and "A Winter's Tale," starring Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown-Findlay. It's old-world glamour in the heart of Westchester!

Location managers are especially awed by Lyndhurst's priceless art, historical furniture, and stunning landscapes, says Christine Plazas, the estate's manager of event planning and sales. Plus, she adds, it's a National Trust for Historic Preservation site and is incredibly film-friendly.

"What we offer to production companies is a whole team to support them," said Plazas, who has a background in hospitality management. We also work closely with crews so they can take advantage of all 12 buildings on our 67 acres, while protecting our collection at the same time. Our on-site curator is an invaluable asset, who recognizes that filming at Lyndhurst helps us preserve it for the future."

Now open to the public, Lyndhurst was originally built in 1838 as the home of William Paulding, Jr., who was the mayor of New York City in the 1820s. The home was later purchased by merchant George Merritt and eventually by the railroad tycoon Jay Gould. The staff at Lyndhurst can facilitate an array of productions and special requests, according to Plazas.

"For A Winter's Tale, which was set in the 1840s, they needed snow," she recalls. "It happened to be a dry winter, so the production covered the entire lawn with white fabric, sprayed in ice, brought trees in covered with ice. We also worked with them to build a tent on the mansion's roof, which became the sleeping quarters for Jessica Brown-Findlay's character, who was sick with tuberculosis." During the shoot, Plazas recalled that they discovered that Colin Farrell was a classical musician. To relax in between takes, he gravitated to the concert grand Steinway piano once owned by Jay Gould.

For the History Channel's "Men Who Built America," special outbuildings substituted for a New York City tenement, and the carriage house was used as a pub. In addition, the mansion, bowling alley, conservatory, and indoor pool building were featured.

Many productions have built sets on site, and gone on to film at other locations nearby in Tarrytown and Westchester. The option to leave sets intact while filming in other places is possible at their location, says Plazas.
"We also offer plenty of space for equipment, trucks and trailers, and cranes," she notes.

Lyndhurst is also familiar in high fashion and digital arts circles. Hamptons Magazine, and Gotham Magazine are among the publications featuring shoots at Lyndhurst. Plus, the mansion has been featured on several episodes of TLC's "Four Weddings," including eight finales, and the exterior was filmed and used for the look and design of a video game.

Among the wackier shoots at Lyndhurst? "Radio Shack filmed a battery commercial here," says Plazas. "We had a lot of little girls in pink Barbie cars driving around the property, which was a lot of fun!"

For more information on filming at Lyndhurst, contact Christine Plazas, Manager Event Planning & Sales, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Astorino Showcases County's Growing Film and Television Industry

"The Leftovers” is Latest Production in Westchester Fictional Town of “Mapleton” Celebrated on June 29 

Mapleton, New York DayCounty Executive Robert P. Astorino today proclaimed June 29 “Mapleton, New York Day in Westchester County.” If you are wondering what Mapleton has to do with Westchester, the answer is film and television production.

Mapleton is the fictional town at the center of a new ten-episode television series “The Leftovers,” beginning Sunday, June 29 at 10 p.m. on HBO.  From Damon Lindelof (Emmy® winner for “Lost”) and acclaimed novelist Tom Perrotta (Academy Award® nominee for “Little Children”), “The Leftovers” is based on Perrotta’s bestselling novel of the same name, produced for HBO by White Rabbit in association with Warner Bros. Television.

Starring  Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston and Liv Tyler, the show has been filmed in settings across the county, as well as on an  elaborate set built at the new Haven Studios NY in Mount Vernon.

 “Westchester’s beautiful parks, shorelines, historic Main Streets, suburban neighborhoods and bustling urban areas provide great backdrops for movies and television shows,” said Astorino from the set of “The Leftovers” in Mount Vernon on Friday. “The Leftovers is just the latest starring role for Westchester, and we are very proud to have worked with everyone involved in the production. Obviously, we love the glamor. But film production also makes business sense in terms of jobs and dollars coming into our local communities. Just six months into 2014, we have surpassed the revenues generated by film and television production in all of 2013.”

One sign of the health of the film business in Westchester is the conversion of a warehouse in Mount Vernon into Haven Studios NY. For “The Leftovers”, the 42,270 square-foot production space at Haven Studios was transformed into the interior of a suburban residence and a police station.  “We were excited to get a tenant so soon after marketing the space to the film industry,” said Nicole Zeller, the owner of the new studio and vice president of Zelco Industries. “We had so much interest in the space. It was clearly needed in the region.”
In addition to “The Leftovers,” other recent television series that have filmed multiple episodes—and in some cases, multiple seasons—in Westchester include, “The Blacklist,” “The Following,” “Elementary,” “Person of Interest,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Americans,” “Girls,” and “The Good Wife.” Feature films that have recently wrapped include “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Winter’s Tale,” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

Photo (left to right): Nicole Zeller, co-owner of Haven Studios NY; Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino; Mayor Ernie Davis, City of Mt. Vernon; and Gabrielle Zeller, co-owner of Haven Studios NY.

Yonkers Stage Offers Affordable Production Facility in Metro New York

Large Scale Space Offers Freedom and Flexibility in Westchester County, Say Veteran Film Producers

Yonkers StageIt all started with an affair—"The Thomas Crowne Affair," that is. Co-producers Roger Paradiso and Mike Tadross needed a museum with an Impressionist Wing, without the hassle of moving precious real art during their shoot. So they built one.

They found space in Yonkers, about 20 minutes north of the real Metropolitan Museum of Art, easily accessible by train and three major highways and within the 25-mile New York City production zone.

"We managed to stuff in 24 sets into the stage," said Paradiso of the 32,000 square-foot facility space they found, now called Yonkers Stage. "We built a two-story townhouse and a museum set. And we still had room for carpentry, scenic, set decorating, FX shops, production offices and more."

Paradiso and Tadross partnered to lease and market the campus, which includes two buildings and nine acres for one package price. It's hosted several high profile productions since their first in 1989, including "Mona Lisa Smile," "Riding in Cars With Boys," "Wall Street Two," and "Inside Llewyn Davis," to name a few.

"Because the space is raw, the sky's the limit," says Paradiso. "For 'Llewyn Davis,' they did all the shots of the actors driving through rain and snow in the stage, with the actor sitting in a car. For "A Winter's Tale," they re-created parts of Central Park. The producers of "Rollerball" created a rink in the staging area that came out into a parking lot."

Producers and directors can expect a lot of freedom and affordable prices in Yonkers and throughout Westchester County, says Paradiso. "The county's largest cities can substitute for major urban areas, and has traditional suburbs and rural locations that are not overused. The town of Yonkers is very film-friendly, and it's a lot easier to move large crews around here, too. Using Yonkers as your home base is an economical way of working with great assets."

For more information on Yonkers Stage, visit www.yonkersstage.com. For complete information on Westchester County film locations, call Lydia Ruth at (914) 995-8503.

Warner Brothers Television Signs on as Tenant to Film HBO Drama, The Leftovers

Haven Studios Fills Need for More Production Space in Westchester County

Turns out, an affordable, 42,500 square-foot raw production space with plenty of parking and access to public transportation and major highways—all within New York City’s 25-mile zone—is not a tough sell to film and television producers. When sisters Nicole and Gabrielle Zeller decided to market their Westchester County warehouse, they sailed through state approval process for becoming a qualified production facility and nabbed their first tenant, Warner Brothers Television, within months.

Haven Studios“We had so much interest in the space, it was clearly needed in our region,” said Nicole Zeller, who is also vice president of Zelco Industries (DBA Haven Studios NY), the innovative company known for inventing the Itty Bitty Book Light. Haven is now home base through 2014 to "The Leftovers," the highly anticipated HBO dramatic series created by Tom Perotta, author of the novel from which the series takes its name, and Damon Lindelof, who also wrote episodes of "Lost."

We were thrilled to get such a great tenant so quickly,” said Zeller whose warehouse has three loading docks, gated areas for locked storage, offices, conference rooms, a kitchen, ancillary production space, nearby restaurants and plenty of big-box stores with supplies.

 “And, it’s unbelievable what they have created—a whole police department, and interiors of a house. Being able to create these semi-permanent unique settings is one of the advantages of being here.”Haven Studios

Creating product for the entertainment industry isn’t new for the family business, said Zeller. Her uncle, Gary Zeller, a chemist and special effects coordinator, created Zel-Jel, a gooey salve that prevents actors’ skin from burning during pyrotechnic stunts, which earned him a 1989 Academy Award for technical achievement.

Nicole’s father, Noel Zeller, who invented the wildly successful book light has said the family creates products with problem-solving in mind—and for film, television, and commercial productions looking for more large-scale production space in Westchester County, the arrival of Haven Studios NY is a welcome addition.

With an expansive location just a few blocks from Metro North, the Hutchinson River Parkway, I-95, and a New York City subway stop nearby, Haven Studios has much to offer film, television, and commercial productions. Haven Studios is now available for short-term productions. For more information, visit www.havenstudiosny.com.

Westchester’s Paramount Theater Chosen for an Indie Shoot

Paramount Theatre, City of PeekskillSometimes, a film’s location takes on a life of its own. The Paramount Theater, located in Westchester’s artsy City of Peekskill, had the perfect vibe for the look and feel of the independent film, "Friends and Romans," produced by Michael Mailer.

“It’s an older theater that harkens back to a certain time and age,” said Susan Parsons, production manager, on a recent day of filming.  “It has what we needed—the kind of character that we built into the script. It’s the kind of place that inspires great memories.”

The Paramount Theater serves as a backdrop for about a third of the film, which features actor Michael Rispoli, who plays an Italian-American aspiring actor so desperate to move beyond stereotyped background work, he decides to mount a production of Julius Caesar to prove his mettle. The film also stars Annabella Sciorra and Tony Sirico. Rispoli and Sirico are well known for their roles on "The Sopranos," 'Jackie,' and 'Paulie,' respectively.Actors Michael Rispoli and Tony Sirico on set at the Paramount Theater in Peekskill, NY, for the filming of Friends and Romans.

Parsons says that the rest of city served as the perfect setting for the film that supposedly takes place in Staten Island, New York. “In terms of production, Peekskill is well-located on the Hudson River. It has water access and is close to major parkways that allow commercial vehicles. Plus, it has proximity to Manhattan, where some of our actors and crew are located,” Parsons added, noting that the locals—from the theater staff to realtors, police, business council and Westchester film office representatives—have helped with various aspects of the production.

The film shoot has provided benefits for the town, too, according to Jonathan Close, the theater’s general manager. “The main benefit for us has been a continuous use of our theater. The crew has frequented area restaurants and used local equipment. And it has meant a great deal to our staff, both from a professional development standpoint and, given the extra work they’ve had, an economic one as well.”Paramount Theatre, City of Peekskill

Producer Michael Mailer said audiences of all ages would enjoy the comedy, due out in 2014. The film is a warm, aspirational tale in the style and humor of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," according to Mailer, and has themes of self-empowerment, proving oneself, and realizing that potential doesn’t disappear with youth.

Mailer said he’s a big booster of New York State shoots.

“The Governor’s office has made it favorable,” said Mailer. “Tax rebates make productions possible. Plus, shooting in Westchester has been more relaxed than shooting in Manhattan—and the theater is a gem of a space.”

Lead actor Michael Rispoli also said he was happy to be filming in the region. “I grew up in Rockland County and still live in the Hudson Valley. I also come from a theater background, so the Paramount Theater was a draw for me. It feels like home.”

Mailer agrees. “The location is all part of the package of making art. We feel the joy of making a movie and feel good about employing a bunch of people and contributing to the New York State economy. It’s a joy to work with actors who get the New York vibe of this shoot.”

Location Manager Loves Filming in Westchester for the Fox Hit, "The Following"

Chris George, Location Manager for "The Following"

Seven Questions for Chris George

Westchester County Film: We're so excited about Season 2 of "The Following!" What drew you to Westchester locations for this show?

Chris George: Westchester County offers every kind of production value you could possibly need. Urban, suburban, rural, pastoral, industrial – the county has it all. Plus, the support that productions receive from the Lydia Ruth and the Westchester County Film Office adds a comfort level and peace of mind that you can't really put a price tag on.

WCF: Tell us about some of the other productions you've worked on here.

CG: I've filmed in Westchester County for over a decade on a variety of projects: "The Following," NBC's "30 Rock," "Law & Order: SVU" and "The Book of Daniel" and features like "Hitch" with Will Smith, "Riding in Cars with Boys" with Drew Barrymore, directed by Penny Marshall, and "A Beautiful Mind" with Russell Crowe, directed by Ron Howard.

WCF: What are some of your favorite locations in Westchester County?

CG: For The Following, we did a great sequence on top of Kensico Dam in Valhalla. [Editor's note: Kensico Dam Plaza is a Westchester County Park, with a dam that is 300 feet high and almost 2,000 feet long forming the Kensico reservoir]. I'm also a fan of Saxon Woods county park in Scarsdale, the Westchester County Prison, the spectacular suburban homes of Harrison, the beautiful downtowns of Rye and Bronxville, Manhattanville College, and the Beechwood Estate at SUNY Purchase. Special mention goes to Jason Baker and Sgt. Chris Perotta in Yonkers and to Jackie Greer and Lt. Michael Olsey in Harrison. Those two towns in particular are really welcoming to production companies. We always feel especially comfortable in Yonkers and Harrison, too.

WCF: What's a typical day like for you "at the office?"

CG: I don't really get to spend much time at the office, specifically. I spend the majority of my days being driven around by a teamster in a scout van with the show's director, producer, production designer, and assistant directors. If I'm not in the van, I'm usually on the set.

WCF: What do you take with you on a scouting mission?

CG: The only two indispensable things are a camera and a phone: the camera to document where you are, and the phone to line up where you're going. At the end of the day, that's all you really need.

WCF: What was your most exciting discovery as a location scout?

CG: More often than not, finding the perfect location is all about timing. One of the most exciting discoveries we made last season on "The Following" was the former Ossining police station. We happened to be looking for several days all over the New York area for a building that could play as a small-town police station for a multiple-episode arc. With the Westchester County Film Office's guidance, we came upon the Ossining station not long after it closed, and it could not have been a more ideal location. It barely needed any dressing at all; we just had to set up the cameras and roll. Then, within a month or so after we finished filming, the building was sold and is now no longer available. I'll always look back on that place as one of the best locations we ever stumbled upon. My department still gets compliments on it over a year later.

WCF: What's next?

CG: I've already mentioned some of the projects I've worked on. Next for me, after we wrap Season 2 of The Following, is a new pilot from Tina Fey for NBC – a breezy comedy with a slightly different tone from the FOX thriller. After that, some time off with the family...Then, back at it again...


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