According to State Representative Carlo Leone, a Democrat of Stamford, movie productions provided a total of $1 million to the Connecticut economy before 2006. Now, after the passing of a July 2006 law that gives film production companies a 30 percent tax credit, that number has risen to $480 million, and the likes of Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Uma Thurman and have flocked to Connecticut, or as some would now have it, “Hollywood East.”
Naturally, the scores of producers flooding into the state have looked for idyllic college campuses to use for their films. Many schools have obliged.
Scenes from “The Madman’s Tale,” which will feature Irish-born actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, were recently filmed at Trinity College. A two-hour television special that features Michael Imperioli from “The Sopranos,” called “Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom’s For One More Day,” was filmed at Fairfield University this past summer. Harrison Ford traveled to Yale this summer to shoot a chase scene on campus for his upcoming film “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which is being directed by Steven Spielberg.
Wesleyan administrators, however, are hesitant to follow the trend. Director of Media Relations David Pesci, who handles calls from interested producers, said that while the University does not have any set policy regarding the matter, almost all offers have been rejected so far.
“Wesleyan considers these projects on a case-by-case basis, but tends to bypass them while classes are in session because we have found in the past that they are disruptive to campus and academic life,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We do give special consideration to alumni film makers, however.”
Although Pesci said that he was not at liberty to discuss the offers, he did say that the school has considered allowing an alum to film on campus. Besides the disruption, he said, allowing filming on campus is not particularly profitable.
“The daily cost of letting someone film on your property runs somewhere from a few hundred dollars a day to as much as $5,000 a day or a bit more,” he said. “In my experience, the fees barely if at all cover the cost of staff time, energy costs, and other costs that are incurred during the production days. In short, there’s not a lot of money to be made from this, especially since it is periodic in its opportunity.”
Judy Greiman P’10, the President and film industry liaison of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, says that many schools in the state have also considered the upsides of on-campus filming — namely, the publicity.
“Many schools have said they are willing to talk,” she said, mentioning the University of Bridgeport as well.
Connecticut is in a way ideal, Greiman said, because of its location as well as its surprisingly well connected citizenry.
“It’s very expensive to film in New York, so Connecticut makes sense,” she said. “There are also a lot of people who live here with connections to production companies.”
On the other hand, Wesleyan has taken the first steps towards creating a film community more geared towards the reality of a Connecticut awash in Hollywood money.
One of the problems that producers have encountered in state, Greiman said, is the shortage of trained local production crews. Therefore, Pesci said, the school is now considering creating a film production summer certificate program, though it is still only an idea. If such a program were to be instituted, those who received the certificate could potentially find a job in state.
Furthermore, Pesci said that President Roth has shown great interest in other methods of adapting to Connecticut’s budding film culture.
“We could gain money from production, but [Roth] sees it on a much grander scale that doesn’t focus so much on production,” Pesci said. “There are other ways to partner with the film commission like holding a film festival.”
A potential film festival is still in the idea stage, however. For now, don’t expect to see any production crews setting up in Usdan. You can however look for glimpses of Connecticut coming in theaters soon. Look for “College Road Trip,” featuring Martin Lawrence and Raven-Symoné, which will be released next March and was filmed at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford. Others include “Revolutionary Road,” featuring Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet, “What Just Happened?” starring Robert DeNiro and Bruce Willis, and “Pistol Whipped” starring Steven Seagal.