If Wagner College were an actor with an IMDB profile, its “Known For” section would include movies like “School of Rock" and television series like “Law & Order Special Victims Unit.” But how did Wagner become a sought-after filming location?
Wagner’s campus is located in a borough of New York City, just a "Working Girl" ferry ride away from Manhattan. While Hollywood remains the epicenter of the entertainment industry, New York has seen a significant increase in productions in recent years.
In addition to its convenient location, the campus provides diverse architecture styles, lush exteriors and versatile interiors. To quote a crew member of a recent independent film, “This campus is definitely a hidden gem!”
Whether it’s by phone or email, location scouts contact me almost daily. However, only a fraction of these initial asks will lead to campus visits and only a fraction of visitors will return with a full crew for a shoot.
My job is to try my best to make it happen. I collaborate with many departments on campus and we get creative. You never know what will click for a production team and each person on a crew will look at a space through a different lens. Often what they want is not what they expected and what they weren’t expecting becomes what they want.
Sometimes requests are particularly unusual. Recently, a scout I worked with in the past reached out to me looking specifically for a manhole. "The scene involves an actor climbing in and out of one," they said. So, yeah, I spent a portion of my day conducting Wagner College manhole research.
Spoiler alert: After sending a dozen photos over, the production team decided our manholes didn't work for them since they were all painted Wagner green.
On rare occasions, a space is both available and exactly what the production had in mind. Most of the time, we rely on "movie magic" to get the job done. Productions are able to transform a space into exactly what they need. An empty dorm room can be dressed to appear lived-in. A Spiro lecture hall can be reimagined as a movie theater. A basement can be transformed into a police station. You get the idea.
To put it simply, film shoots are unpredictable but Wagner College has always been open and accepting of the industry. Campus cameos on both big and small screens are cool to witness and evoke a sense of pride within the community. As Wagner College production and media offerings expand, I hope our footprint in film will continue to follow suit.
Written by Cass Lang, Assistant Director of Marketing and Special Projects for The Department for Lifelong Learning