Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Move Over Hollywood: Film Crews Love Rockland

By Meagan Jaskot

If you've noticed bright yellow arrow signs around your neighborhood, it is highly likely that you are nearing the set of a major television production. Over the past year, Rockland County has attracted production teams from some of the biggest hits on networks including Fox, NBC, CW, and Netflix.

Rockland County is a prime filming location due to its close proximity to New York City. Many major networks are based in the city. Rockland’s suburban setting with various state parks has proved good for filming outdoor scenes.

Over the past several decades, Rockland has been home to award winning movies and series. Recently, the area has become an increasingly popular filming location.

Netflix, a web based television source, has made history with its outrageously popular series “Orange is the New Black”, starring Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon. The show is a Netflix original series which has allowed Netflix to compete alongside traditional cable stations. The shows premise is loosely based on Piper Kerman's New York Times best-selling memoir, also titled Orange is the New Black. It is a recollection of her 15 month stint in an all women's prison.

The large majority of filming takes place in an abandoned Children's Hospital in the hamlet of Blauvelt. The building, on Convent Road, has been left unoccupied since 2010, when a new hospital was built just a few miles away. Set designers have redesigned the structure to look like a minimum security prison closely resembling the Federal Correctional Institute, in Danbury Connecticut, on which the show is based. The television rendition of the real life prison is called Litchfield Penitentiary; a fictional town supposedly set in upstate New York.  When passing through the filming site, you will recognize various props such as signs reading “Litchfield Staff & Visitor Entrance.” There are also barbed wire fences that now surround the building.

All of the outdoor scenes are filmed in Rockland, in addition to some interior scenes including the library and laundry room shots. Production trucks were been parked on the sight for most of 2013.
Although most of the show is set within the prison grounds, most all of the additional scenes are filmed in the surrounding towns of Pearl River and Nyack. The show has an additional set at Kaufman- Astoria Studios in Queens, New York.

The highly anticipated second season will air on Netflix on June 6th. Production for the second season began in August 2013 and wrapped up in early February.

Also partially filmed in Rockland Psychiatric Center is FOX’s new series, “The Following.” The series revolves around a serial killer’s cult, starring Golden Globe winner Kevin Bacon. A few exterior scenes in the second season have been recognized as within the mental health center. Just a few miles away is Tallman State Park where much of the shows second season was filmed in the woodsy area. Filming trucks were visible in the park from October to January. Other scenes have been shot in the surrounding areas of Nyack, at Nyack Hospital, and in Clarkstown. Production vehicles and cast cars filled the Provident Bank parking lot. The show was just recently renewed for a third season. Season two wrapped up on April 28 on FOX.

Also filmed partially in Tallman State park is “Vampire Diaries.” Wildly popular amongst teens and young adults, the drama has maintained a large fan base. The show filmed a portion of it latest season in the park this past winter, according to a member of the production crew. The CW show has already been renewed for a sixth season. The show has the same producer as “The Following,” which is a likely explanation for the similar filming locations.

Most recently, NBC’s newest series, “Believe,” filmed in several areas of Rockland County, confirmed by another crew member. The science fiction series premiered its pilot episode on March 10 and has continued airing every Sunday evening since then. The show revolves around a young girl born with supernatural powers. Production teams have again been spotted at Tallman Mountain State Park, as well as at Rockland Lake in late March and early April. The first season has already enjoyed good ratings.

There is no official word explaining the sudden interest in Rockland, but the county has undoubtedly become a popular filming site over the past year. With the extreme success of the mentioned shows, the return of film crews should be anticipated in the near future. If you are interested in a behind the scenes look at TV’s biggest hits, be sure to keep an eye out for big yellow signs that say "follow."

For further updates on filming sites:

Meagan Jaskot is a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas College. Meagan is 20 years old and a member of both the Spartan Cross-Country and Track and Field teams. She is a Communication- Arts major with a minor in Business. Meagan lives is Blauvelt, New York. In her spare time, she enjoys cycling, reading, and traveling.

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