×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

New York’s Westchester County Offers Elbow Room That City Lacks

Even though leafy Westchester County, just north of New York City, has recently become a hotbed for filming, it has yet to succumb to local production fatigue — a syndrome in which residents come to resent the intrusion of trucks and crews close to their property.

When actor-producer Chance Kelly, whose credits include “American Sniper,” recently received an unexpected phone call from a police official in Yonkers, N.Y., his first reaction was “Uh-oh, I’m in trouble.”

Instead, it was a how-can-we-help inquiry related to his shooting permit in the city for a boxing film. “Westchester is happy to have you,” says Kelly, a resident of the county. “You aren’t going to get that in New York City.”

The county’s film office reports it received more than 300 shooting-permit inquiries in 2016, triple that in 2011.

“You have towns like Yonkers and White Plains with alleys and street intersections, and also highways, historic places, old farms, country roads and mansions,” says Ernie Karpeles, a location scout for TV commercials and other productions, who lives in Westchester. “There’s a real diversity of looks. And the police will work with you to close roads.”

Westchester is known for rolling hills and affluent communities sandwiched between the Hudson River and Long Island Sound. East Coast elites such as music mogul Clive Davis and Bill and Hillary Clinton maintain Westchester residences. Permanent production infrastructure is scarce, though Westchester does have four soundstages and some post-production services.

“Most of the activity we’re seeing is for episodic series [including] ‘Madam Secretary,’ ‘The Get Down,’ ‘Billions,’ ‘The Blacklist’ and ‘Quantico,’” says Natasha Caputo, director of the county’s Tourism & Film Office. “It’s all different subject matter, not just one period setting. And we’re seeing more and more commercials too.”

The southern end of Westchester, which encompasses the county’s bigger cities, is within what union work rules generally classify as a local zone (in this case a 25- or 30-mile radius from Manhattan). Within the radius, employees report to the location where their workday starts, but beyond the radius, the pay clock can begin in Manhattan, thus covering travel time too.

In addition, shoots anywhere in Westchester can apply for New York state production subsidies for below-the-line expenses ($420 million per year is funded through 2022). That’s an advantage over neighboring New Jersey, which has some geography within local-labor zones but offers no state subsidy money.

Another selling point: elbow room for trucks, campers and other bulky equipment. “In the congestion of the city, parking is your biggest hurdle because you don’t have exterior parking lots in Manhattan,” says Celia Costas, executive producer of “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” and Westchester-centric thriller “The Girl on the Train.”

“The varied housing stock in Westchester provides the opportunity to double any number of mid-Atlantic and coastal cities,” says county resident Lauri Pitkus, location manager for “Ocean’s Eight” and “Orange Is the New Black.”

The landscape diversity is such that Westchester locations can be dressed up to look like faraway places. For example, the county’s suburban-caliber airport has doubled for an aerodrome in North Africa, and a local marina served as a Miami Beach club.

More Artisans

  • The Old Man and the Gun

    Ohio’s Midwest Locations and Flexible Tax Credit Lure Producers

    With its small towns, rolling farmlands and industrial cities, Ohio embodies the American Midwest. Other location lures for filmmakers include the shore along Lake Erie, the campus of Ohio State University, the striking skyline of Cincinnati and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The Buckeye State also provides producers with a 30% [...]

  • Nancy Schreiber Mapplethorpe Cinematographer

    DP Nancy Schreiber Captures Life of Artist Robert Mapplethorpe in Grimy Gotham

    Don’t tell cinematographer Nancy Schreiber that she’s having a renaissance. That would imply there’ve been slumps in her long career, and she won’t have any of that, even if for a time she was taking smaller jobs as the gaps widened between larger gigs. “It’s never been about the money, for me,” says Schreiber over [...]

  • What Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga Share:

    LeRoy Bennett Keeps Top Acts Like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande in the Spotlight

    You might say that LeRoy Bennett is a shining light among lighting and production designers for pop music. Doing double duty creating both touring sets and their illumination, he started out with a 14-year run as Prince’s collaborator, went on to work with Nine Inch Nails and Madonna and has counted Beyoncé’s and Bruno Mars’ [...]

  • Us Movie

    How 'Us' Pulled Off Subtle Differences in Costumes, Design, Music for Parallel Characters

    “Us,” Jordan Peele’s second outing as a director, following his 2017 critical and box office success “Get Out,” revisits similar psychological horror-thriller territory. But this time the stakes are, well, doubled.  In the new film, to be released by Universal on March 21, Adelaide Wilson, played by Lupita Nyong’o, returns to her childhood beachside home [...]

  • Ben Davis Cinematographer Captain Marvel Brie

    Cinematographer Ben Davis Helps Create the Look of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

    Since 2008’s “Iron Man,” the Marvel cinematic universe has continued expanding, now numbering more than 20 films. Along the way, the company has developed a reputation for solid technology choices with the large-format ARRI Alexa 65 camera and the Codex Vault 65 on-set media management system as cornerstones of its workflow. Earlier in the series, [...]

  • Costume Designer Betty Pecha Madden on

    Betty Pecha Madden Looks Back on Four Decades of Costume Design

    Dressing dolls as a child at her parents’ Wisconsin farm, future costume designer Betty Pecha Madden created stories using clothes. By age 17, her interest in costuming having grown serious via high school plays, she left home upon graduation and went to Chicago to find work in the industry. Madden clothed rock groups and college [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content