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Buffalo becomes a hotspot for major motion pictures to film

The hustle and bustle of the uprising Buffalo movie scene

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After nearly 18 hours of shooting and re-shooting, the set of “Marshall” broke down their production rigs and director’s tents to move from the quiet suburbs of Buffalo’s historic Parkside community to continue filming in Downtown Buffalo.

Due to Buffalo’s slew of historic landmarks and old Victorian homes, the film’s setting fits perfectly with Buffalo’s landscape. But it isn’t the only major movie that has been filmed in Buffalo. In May 2015, the opening scene from the second “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”movie was filmed on the Kensington Expressway. The four-to-five-minute opening scene also took up a majority of the movie’s trailer. Because of the Turtle’s popularity and the warm welcoming crew members received from the city of Buffalo, other major film companies are now turning to Buffalo as a prime location to film big budget movies.

“Marshall,”starring Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson and other A-list actors, takes place in Connecticut in the early 1940s andtells the story of the United States’ first black Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall.

Producer Jonathan Sanger concluded that even though the film takes place in Connecticut, Buffalo was the perfect place to shoot the film.

“Normally for independent films like these we look for places to film where we can get a benefit from the economy locally and New York has been very, very favorable to motion pictures in the state and particularly beneficial to movies that film upstate,” Sanger said.

All local residencies that were used for either interior or exterior shots for the film were paid. Several companies involved with moving and making props and painting were all hired locally.

In April, local news stations said the producers would be hiring local actors to play all the background parts in the film. There was an online application process and a group of Buffalonians were selected to play protestors and street-goers for the film.

Sanger also commented on why Buffalo beat out other cities across the U.S. when it came down to picking a filming location.

“I have to say, we scouted a number of different cities and different parts of the country and Buffalo was just head and shoulders above anything else we saw for a number of reasons,” Sanger said. “One, the locations were terrific, this is a period movie that’s set in 1941 and we found the older houses and buildings and architecture here in Buffalo, which was pretty amazing”

Sanger said the team was able to find about 75 percent of the locations for the film in two days, which made them feel “confident” that Buffalo was the ideal spot.

“Marshall” is being completely filmed in Buffalo and other parts of Western New York. All the court scenes were filmed at the Dillon Courthouse in Downtown Buffalo and other scenes were shot at Niagara Fall’s LaSalle Public Library.

Film crews painted the second floor of the library to look like Marshall’s offices. They repainted the whole second floor after shooting to restore the office to its previous condition. They also filmed in the jail cells in the basement of the library.

From as early as 6 a.m., Russel Street in North Buffalo was filled curb to curb with 18 wheelers filled with props and costumes, old fashion cars, dozens of cameras and A-list actors.

Joan Baizer, a professor of physiology at UB, said it was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have her house used in a major motion picture like “Marshall.

“I had some idea about how massive the operation was so I understood what it would be like, but it’s totally different to experience because your home is just completely taken over,” Baizer said.

The interior of her house was used for a series of shots for the film. They filmed almost exclusively in the living room and foyer of the house and the set up prior to shooting was extensive.

“It was extremely invasive and destructive, which I knew it would be… They went through the house on Tuesday and Wednesday and took pictures of basically every room in the house,” Baizer said. “The people who were in charge of determining what the sets looked like went through those pictures and crossed out everything they didn’t want in the background.”

Baizer’s furniture was wrapped and stored in her garage. She said the process was “exhausting.”

Although the experience was tiring, Baizer was happy that her house was used during the film and found a new appreciation for the “behind the scenes magic” that ties together a film.

Being able to meet the actors and see how much they go through just to film a two-to-three-minute scene is something many people never get see first hand.

“What was most interesting to me is that they would do about a three-minute scene in about ten takes, then the director would say “reset” and the crew would change camera lenses and the angle that they were filming at and do it all over again until they found the right angle that they needed,” Sanger said.

The production crew couldn’t tell exactly where they were going to film and at what angle to film at based off the picture taken of her home. So once they got there and prepped the house for filming, the cast re-shot many scenes until they found the prefect shot to keep for the movie.

Some exterior shots were filmed at other houses across the street on Russel Street that had a more appealing exterior before they moved downtown to shoot the courtroom scenes.

The court scene is the climax of the film and provides a little bit of thrill for viewers. The scenes shot in and outside of the court were very intense and required lots of background actors to play protestors and jury members.

Jess Tropp, a Buffalo native, played one of the protestors outside the courtroom and although she’s not an actor, she said the opportunity was just too good to pass up.

“There was an ad in [The Buffalo News] saying the movie was looking for extras,” Tropp said. “I emailed them my information, measurements and a full body shot, thinking I probably wouldn’t get a call back. I got a call the next day asking for me to come in for a fitting and asking me to be an extra for several days of filming.”

Tropp was on set for at least two full days of shooting, working all day alongside all the main stars of the movie.

“The main celebs [Josh Gad and Chadwick Boseman] were there both days and I got to work up close with both of them in the shots,” Tropp said. “Also the producers were great and fun to work with as well. You can tell they enjoy their work and have fun doing it.”

When asked if she would try acting again, Tropp said that if the opportunity presented itself she would consider it. She learned that it's tough, tedious work with rough, unpredictable hours.

Her biggest take away getting to see the making of a movie and all the efforts that go into it.

Although “Marshall”is an independent film, it is being distributed domestically through Open Road who distributed last years Academy Award winning film “Spotlight,”and Sony is distributing it internationally.

For local residents who got to see the filming it was an experience usually only seen in Los Angeles or New York City. Local students also thought it was a good change of pace for Buffalo.

Junye Ma, a sophomore phycology and linguistics major, said he thinks it’s a great step forward for Buffalo. Coming from someone that grew up only a few short hours away from Los Angeles, he thought it was nice that a big film like “Marshall”was coming to a town like Buffalo instead of one of the usual filming spots.

“It’s really cool. As far as I know there aren't too many exciting events going on in Buffalo,” Ma said. “The director of the movie must have seen something nice in Buffalo and decided to shoot the movie here. More people can get a better idea of our city through this movie if it contains good views of Buffalo and its beautiful scenery and architecture.”

Movies aren’t the only thing being filmed in Buffalo. Hometown rock band The Goo Goo Dolls just released their latest single “So Alive” featuring a brand new music video filmed in Buffalo.

The video was shot in Buffalo’s Central Terminal in late April, and all crew members and cast were local Buffalo citizens.

Max Kalnitz is the senior arts editor and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com


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