LIU Post is a Budding Star as Silver Screen Setting for Film and Television
By Rachel DeLetto, LIU Magazine Spring 2015
New York is the new Hollywood. With the world’s most recognizable skyline, an enormous pool of entertainment industry talent and resources, and one of the best film tax incentive programs in the nation, New York has lured production east and become the top shooting location for big and small screens. But despite recent evidence to the contrary, not all television and film productions can be set in Brooklyn.
If you thought you recognized that CIA building in Madam Secretary, or felt oddly nostalgic during a hospital scene in Royal Pains, there is a reason for that sense of déjà vu. Over the past few years, location scouts seeking a lush, country look and feel have gravitated to LIU Post.
“We’ve become known in the industry as a film friendly campus,” said Kathy Mendall, Associate Director of Conference Services and head of the Film and Entertainment Division at LIU Post who serves as primary liaison for location scouts and production management.
“We have so many different types of settings available here on campus,” said Mendall. “Historic buildings, modern classrooms, landscaped gardens, the equestrian center and riding trails, open fields and wooded areas. So they know they can really get a lot of value from shooting here.”
The versatile offerings of LIU Post’s self-contained grounds also offers a unique expanse of space for productions to establish a “basecamp”–a small village of talent, technical and production crew, and equipment that pops up for the duration of the production.
“The University is a town unto itself, but unlike actual towns, production services is here to coordinate everything from licenses, to electric and carpentry, to public safety and dining services,” Mendall said.
The proximity to the city is also an attractive draw. Just 45 minutes from major NYC studios including Steiner, Silvercup, and Kaufman Studios, LIU Post is also a short drive to the increasingly booming Grumman and Gold Coast Studios in Bethpage, N.Y.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to showcase the beauty of our campus,” said Mendall. The active demand for Post as a filming location also generates revenue and provides opportunity for students to observe working sets and interact with professionals in the film and television business.
And yes, meet celebrities. The guest list of star sightings includes Kevin Bacon (The Following filmed on campus and used parking lots for a basecamp), Tėa Leoni (Madam Secretary transformed the Tilles Atrium into their CIA HQ), Henry Winkler and the cast of Royal Pains (Pell Hall served as Hamptons Heritage Hospital), and Tate Donovan (filming the pilot episode of Hostages). Most recently the cast of Blue Bloods was on campus and other projects are planned for summer recess.
But LIU Post’s big break moment came in February with the premier of The Rewrite, a new romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei. Filmed on the Brookville campus during the spring and fall of 2013, The Rewrite features Grant as an Oscar-winning screenwriter who, broke and in a creative slump, reluctantly takes a job as a professor at Binghamton University where he becomes emotionally entangled with the students in his screenwriting class.
Written and directed by Marc Lawrence, who also wrote and directed Miss Congeniality, Forces of Nature, Two Weeks Notice, and Music and Lyrics, among other acclaimed film and television projects, the film pays homage to the director’s alma mater, but LIU Post’s proximity to the city and beautiful landscape made it the obvious choice of setting to shoot the movie.
“The campus was visually the best and the Post folks were just terrific to work with,” Lawrence said.
In February, LIU Post hosted an exclusive pre-theatrical release viewing of The Rewrite in the Gold Coast Cinema in Hillwood Commons, followed by a question and answer session with Lawrence and actors Steven Kaplan and Annie Q.
The Rewrite, also featuring J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Chris Elliott, and Bella Heathcote, filmed 65 percent of scenes on campus and prominently features Post landmarks. During the screening the audience of LIU students, alumni, faculty, and staff whistled and cheered throughout the film as the actors strolled across the Great Lawn, emerged through the doors of Pell Hall, climbed the steps of the B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library, and exchanged dialogue beside the Buck and Mary Lai fountain outside of Humanities Hall. The production used both external and interior spaces, utilizing classrooms, offices, and the Campus Bookstore.
“Seeing the final product on the big screen, it is a proud accomplishment for our campus and everyone who had a part in the production,” said Mendall.
As the largest and longest-duration production thus far, Mendall said “working with Marc Lawrence and his production crew was an amazing experience and really made it possible for us to see how we can bring more television and film productions to LIU Post.”
One of the main priorities in advancing this goal of production on campus is making sure any filming is not disruptive to students or the operations of the University. Mendall said coordinating with location scouts with regard to timing of the individual filming schedules can be challenging.
“There are certain times of year that we just have to say no. If it’s going to disrupt our students we can’t give them the space,” she said. But the minor inconveniences of active sets on campus is mostly balanced out by the benefits to students.
In addition to the excitement and energy of having celebrities on campus, the University strives to create opportunities for student participation, learning, networking, and experience. In addition to the intimate question and answer session with director Marc Lawrence at the pre-release screening, during filming of
The Rewrite, LIU Post film students were invited to the set to watch and participate in the staging and shooting of scenes in the Campus Bookstore. Public Relations and Conference Services department interns earn real-world experience and build contacts while working with professionals in the industry in coordination of on-campus productions.
LIU Post also recently hosted a number of small film festivals and screenings and has partnered with the New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and TV Development and Nassau County Film Commission for events and informational sessions about the burgeoning opportunity for filmmakers in our community.
While silver screen projection is an effective way to show the world the truly unique and picturesque world of LIU Post, more than anything, said Mendall, “We want to show students who are future filmmakers what our area has to offer and encourage them to stay in New York and continue to feed the industry.”