More and more A-list movie producers are choosing the Valley as the backdrop for their big-budget films. The Hudson Valley Film Commission's Laurent Rejto works behind the scenes to make it happen.
Last summer, I read an article in a local paper that described how, in March 2005, filmmakers haddescended on a series of locales in
These locations included the Sky Top Motel in
A little digging revealed that something called the Hudson Valley Film Commission had helped to coax not only this movie the 2006 Robin Williams thriller The Night Listener to the region, but other recent productions besides. These have ranged from the monstrous (budget-wise and villain-wise) War of the Worlds to a host of small, independent pictures more intent on creating art than grossing billions. Filmmaking in the Valley is on the rise, and the commission is one reason why.
In point of fact, the commission is one man, and he runs it according to his pleasure though obsession might be a better word. The man is Laurent Rejto, who in 2000 cofounded the Woodstock Film Festival with his wife Meira Blaustein, and his obsession is helping filmmakers get their films made. Economic development is of course a prime motive, given the millions of dollars that a big production can spend in just a few weeks. Yet for Rejto to take up your cause, you dont have to be famous, well-financed, or well-connected. In some cases, you dont even need to be out of college.
You just have to want to make a film in the
I called Rejto to arrange an interview. His phone voice is cool and melodic, but the man who opened the door to his modest
The greatest pleasure is being able to help a filmmaker find what they want, or being able to cast people from the area into a film, Rejto said. And then after the film is released, being able to show it at the Woodstock Film Festival thats fantastic!
Unlike other nonprofit film commissions in
civil war battlefield location needed. This location scout is for a $100 million-plus production by one of todays premier directors. Trees should be deciduous, not pine, and they stress the rolling hills of
a feature film is looking to shoot in the
night of the living jews another Hasidic zombie movie, shooting in Accord, August 16th through 20th. Casting call for Man, WASPy strong, stable father type, also able to flip and go insane.
These messages give a glimpse of Rejtos reckless empathy for anybody with a script and a camera: The first was on behalf of a Steven Spielberg picture, Lincoln, that ultimately shot its reenactment of Manassas elsewhere; the second was for The Cake Eaters, an independent picture starring Bruce Dern and directed by Mary Stuart Masterson, which was filmed in Catskill and is due to be released this year; and the third for a zero-budget comedy short, written and directed by two ambitious 19-year-olds.
Its Rejtos willingness to get involved that makes him so effective, said Jerome Stoeffhaas, deputy director for the Governors Office of Motion Picture and Television Development. He aggressively responds to every call we send. Hes willing to do whatever it takes to stay in the game get in the car and drive around to locations, take pictures, follow up. That doesnt happen in other places.
In the case of War of the Worlds, Spielbergs production company, DreamWorks, was seeking a field and a ferry landing as backdrops to alien attacks. Tipped off about the search from the governors film office, Rejto knew he had a shot at luring the filmmakers to the Valley but he had to act fast. He jumped in his car to shoot photos of fields in
If it hadnt been for the helicopter, none of that would have happened, Rejto said. Its always some tiny thing like that. Thats why you have to go out and do everything you can, because otherwise you have no chance.
The commission isnt working in a vacuum, of course. Other factors draw filmmakers to the Valley: the proximity to studios in New York City; the increasing number of well-known players (Melissa Leo, David Strathairn, Aidan Quinn) with homes in the area; invaluable location scouts such as Michelle Baker (who in the eleventh hour found a crucial water tower for The Night Listener); and local angels who help small-budget filmmakers connect with financing, community donations, and other resources. It doesnt hurt that the Valley provides a wealth of rural and small-town settings not available downstate, as well as a gorgeous river and many historic buildings. There is also no need to restrict camera angles, as sometimes happens in densely developed areas, Stoeffhaas adds.
Then there is the success of the Woodstock Film Festival, held each October, which has leveraged indie star power and smart programming to squeeze onto the A-list of national festivals. This area has always been very creative, and people from the film world have been living and working here a long time, says Meira Blaustein. But by bringing so many new filmmakers here, what the festival has done and the film commission has doubled it is to really create a community.
Rejto wants that community to keep growing. He wants movies to come here so that Valley residents can get work not just actors, but scouts, assistant directors, camera operators, gaffers, grips, art designers, boom operators, wardrobes, editors. He badly wants some of the big industry names who have homes in the Valley, but who persist in shooting projects in
One last thing about Rejto: he is a filmmaker himself. He fell in love with the medium in sixth grade, when his art teacher introduced him to claymation. He won a full scholarship to the