Westchester County Serves As a Shooting Location for Many Hollywood Productions
Yonkers’ charm, close location to the city and a permit fee-free policy on filming makes it a prime location for the Hollywood set.
Mona Lisa Smile
photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures
Sure, Westchester has long been the breeding ground for (and home to) many Hollywood A-listers. But recently, you may have noticed a bit of an uptick in Hollywood elites roaming our towns. In the past year, the County’s Tourism & Film office received nearly 200 inquiries—a 38-percent increase from the previous year—into filming in Westchester. Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith, Jude Law, Jennifer Connelly, Channing Tatum, and Kevin Bacon—just to name a few—have all been in the County recently shooting scenes for upcoming movies and TV shows.
Yonkers, especially, has really seen a surge. The city has been actively trying to attract film crews, and it’s worked. It fielded more than 90 requests for permits in 2012—double the previous two years combined. In recent years, the city has hosted major movies and shows, including I Am Legend, Boardwalk Empire, and Gossip Girl. Most recently, Winter’s Tale, starring Jennifer Connelly and featuring Will Smith and Russell Crowe, filmed at Yonkers Stage—a 32,000-square-foot sound stage on Tuckahoe Road that’s been operating since 1998.
To make the city cheaper and more attractive to film crews, Yonkers has expedited its permit-acquisition process and even has waived its permit fee—which was previously $500. “We’ve changed the focus from a fee-based office that brings in revenue from permits to an office that works to bring a new industry to our city,” says Jason Baker, director of the Yonkers Mayor’s Office of Film & Photography. He also notes Yonkers’ diverse locations and close proximity to Manhattan. “Yonkers offers urban, suburban, industrial, historic, and scenic locations, all within minutes of each other,” says Baker. Its diversity can be seen in the films shot there over the years—from American Gangster to Hitch to Doubt to Mona Lisa Smile.
Westchester also notches only one degree in the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game, as he shot his new television drama, The Following, in various spots of the County. David Tuttman, director of photography for the show, praises the local diversity. “Westchester County meets all of our location needs, as it runs the gamut from urban to rural; it has lakes, rivers, beaches, and skyscrapers,” says Tuttman, who lives in Ossining. And, he says, since many crew members live in Westchester and Rockland, shooting locally is extremely convenient.
And for those of you who had difficulty making it through Ardsley last September may have noticed Martin Scorsese filming his upcoming film The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill. George Calvi, village manager, said the crew was attracted to the untouched, “quintessential small-town American setting,” a perfect fit for a film set in the ’80s. “The proverbial time traveler from the 1950s would find his or her surroundings comfortably familiar,” says Calvi. “Why should a film company have to expend energy building a set for a mid-twentieth century period piece, when the set is already in place?”
“Long before there was a Hollywood, film companies used to work in places like Mamaroneck,” says Calvi. D.W. Griffith, who is often referred to as one of the most important figures in the early history of American film, used his hometown of Mamaroneck to shoot some of his most important films (after his controversial The Birth of a Nation). So, as Calvi points out, it may be less Westchester turning into “Hollywood East” and more Hollywood returning to its roots.