Westchester’s Film Industry Boom Is Good For Business

“Action!” is being cried an awful lot in Westchester lately. The increased presence of TV and movie crews filming here is welcome revenue.



From left: 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.

If you tuned in on Sunday night to the premier of HBO’s new series The Leftovers, you may have recognized a few familiar spots in the fictional town of Mapleton: A Hastings-on-Hudson laundromat in the opening scene; the Metro North train whizzing by as Mapleton Police Chief Kevin Garvey (played by Justin Theroux) takes his morning jog; downtown Hastings-on-Hudson as the backdrop of a parade scene; characters drinking at the River Roadhouse bar (also in Hastings); and the Westlake High School sign on the field of “Mapleton High School.” And that was just the first episode—future scenes in the 10-episode series were also filmed in private homes in Harrison, Saxon Woods Park in White Plains, the Zion Episcopal Church in Dobbs Ferry, and in Mount Vernon at Hartley Park, City Hall, and in churches and private residences.

The Warner Brothers series, produced by Damon Lindelof of Lost fame, and based on the book by Tom Perrotta (author of other book-to-film productions, Election and Little Children) is one of a growing number of TV and movie productions to film here in Westchester. Other shows to shoot scenes in Westchester recently include The Blacklist, The Following, Boardwalk Empire, Girls, and The Good Wife.

According to the Westchester County Film Office, inquiries from production companies about filming in the County are up from 121 in 2011 to more than 400 in 2014. And this year, the Office projects that 70 productions will film in Westchester, compared to 33 in 2011. Permitting revenue generated in the first six months of 2014 has already surpassed the amount generated in all of 2013.

What’s drawing all these film industry types to our suburbs? “Westchester’s beautiful parks, shorelines, historic Main Streets, suburban neighborhoods and bustling urban areas provide great backdrops for movies and television shows,” said County Executive Rob Astorino at a press conference last week on the Mount Vernon set of The Leftovers.

Of course, our proximity to Manhattan is a selling point as well. And, the County is now home to two full-service sound stages—Yonkers Stage, a 32,000-square-foot production space in Tuckahoe, that has been used for movies including Mona Lisa Smile, Wall Street Two, and Inside Llewyn Davis; and the 42,000-square-foot Haven Studios in Mount Vernon, where The Leftovers crew built an elaborate set to function as the Mapleton Police Department and the interior of a suburban home.

Nicole Zeller, owner of Haven Studios, is confident in Westchester’s role as a film-industry destination. “We’ve had so much interest in our space. It was clearly needed in the region,” she explained.

And the film industry’s increased presence in Westchester means economic rewards for our region too. These location shoots translate into dollars for area restaurants, gas stations, and various suppliers for the film crews—like Gramatan Hot Bagels in Mount Vernon, which received a nice business boost from the breakfast orders the crew placed each morning for six months. (Leftovers star Liv Tyler was also spotted shopping recently at Dobbs Ferry magic shop, Hocus Pocus.)

Said Astorino at the press conference, “Obviously, we love the glamour. But film production also makes business sense in terms of jobs and dollars coming into our local communities.”

Want to know more about the business of the arts in Westchester? Stay tuned for an upcoming article in the Q3 issue of 914INC that explores this topic in detail…


Actors Michael Rispoli and Tony Sirico at Peekskill's Paramount Theater
 


Yonkers Stage


The inside of Peekskill's Paramount Theater