Saturday, November 05, 2005

Film Shoot in The City

I don’t know what it is about the early fall that brings filmmakers to Saratoga
more so than any other season, but it seems whenever the city is used as a backdrop
for moviemaking, this is the most popular time of year to roll film.

It happened two years ago with the filming of “Seabiscuit,” and continues with the production
of “The Skeptic," and “Aftermath,” a pair of independent films being shot simultaneously and,
at times no more than a few blocks away from one another on the Spa City streets.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Hollywood comes knocking on Caroline Street

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Dan Conboy was on his way to work Wednesday morning
when he was confronted by a woman in the street who asked him, 'Would you like to
be in a movie?'

'The funny thing is, last Sunday there were people in my dining room shooting the film
'The Skeptic,' now today, this,' said Conboy, who had no idea when he pulled a tan jacket
over a blue button-down shirt Wednesday morning that he would be making his film debut
a few hours later.

A film called 'Aftermath' will have dozens of cast and crew members at work in locations throughout Saratoga County for the better part of the next four weeks.
On Wednesday morning, the lights, cameras and heavy cables were running up the hill on Caroline Street and focused on the exterior of the Saratoga City Tavern, where a man called 'Johnny Props' was dropping leaves from the tavern's second-floor window and watching them lazily fall around actor Anthony Michael Hall, who was being filmed in action on the sidewalk below.

'Scene apple 37. Take two,' announced one of the crew members.
That was followed by the repetitive mantra that carried through the daylong shoot:
'Rolling. Action. Cut. Check the gate. Rolling. Action. Cut.'

Filmmaking is a hurry up-and-wait kind of business, and a patient diligence paid to each scene.

Between shots, Hall talked about his enthusiasm for the project and his particular role since he first learned of it while filming his television series, 'The Dead Zone.'

'The heroic character is like one from the early Scorsese films, and this is being filmed in 16 mm, the way Stanley Kubrick used to make his movies,' said Hall, who was first noticed in film
when he was cast as Chevy Chase's son in the 1983 film, 'National Lampoon's Vacation.'

Hall's subsequent work included the popular 1980s' films 'Sixteen Candles'
and 'The Breakfast Club' as well as being a cast member of Saturday Night Live.
Hall's career has also included roles in 'Edward Scissorhands' and 'Six Degrees of Separation.'
In 2001, he starred as Whitey Ford in Billy Crystal's made-for-TV movie '61.' Last month,
he wrapped up the shooting season as Johnny Smith for the TV series 'The Dead Zone.'

'I'm a great fan of the 1970s films and the Tarantino films, and for this, they pulled in Chris Penn and Frank Whaley,' Hall said of his 'Aftermath' costars, who are veterans of the
Quentin Tarantino films 'Reservoir Dogs' and 'Pulp Fiction,' respectively.

Penn the brother of actor Sean and musician Michael and will play the role of the tough
and ill-tempered ex-con Tony Bricker.

The film's cast includes Elizabeth Rohm, cast in the role of Rebecca as the beautiful, strong-willed and pregnant fiancée of the boss. Rohm is best known known for her role as Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn in TV's 'Law & Order.'

Federico Castelluccio, who portrayed Furio on 'The Sopranos,' and Brooklyn-born actor and producer Tony Danza, who will be in the Spa City later this month to play his role as a gun-dealing, bad guy named King.

Hall plays the role of fictional New York state construction company boss Tom Fiorini.
Thomas Farone, a real-life local construction company boss, is the film's director.

'Tom's a film fanatic. He's a gifted guy who really takes command on the set,' Hall said.

'We have about 30 people in the cast and 35 in the crew,' said Sylvia Caminer, one of the film's producers. 'About a third of those are local people.'
Caminer was previously involved in the productions of 'The Deli,' a 1997 film featuring Ice-T, and the 2000 comedy-drama 'Blue Moon' and has worked on two television shows, 'Great Hotels' and 'Passport to Europe.'

Location manager Ray Simboli, a veteran of regionally shot movies 'Billy Bathgate' and
'The Age of Innocence,' helped scout locations for the film.

Around 125 nights in area hotel rooms have been rented in addition to the hiring of local caterers and the rental of vehicles and equipment.

'Aftermath' will continue shooting through the end of November at county locations
from Lake Desolation to Ballston Spa. The film is slated for completion in 2006.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in The Saratogian

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Filming: "The Skeptic"

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Batcheller Mansion Inn is the set for creepy doings for Ballston Spa filmmaker Tennyson Bardwell's second film, 'The Skeptic.'

The psychological thriller features NBC's 'Wings' sitcom veteran Tim Daly, as lawyer Bryan Beckett, an arrogant, conservative and a firm disbeliever in the supernatural, despite the fact that eerie things start happening around him inside the mansion.

Veteran TV actor and comedian Tom Arnold is cast as his law partner, Sully, a man who is prone to conspiracy theories.

The movie will be filmed over the next several weeks in a number of area locations. It is a backdrop Bardwell and wife Mary-Beth Taylor Bradford had in mind since completing their debut film, 'Dorian Blues,' in 2004.

In the time since, the Bardwells have attended screenings across the country for their first independent film, often with their three boys in tow, and have secured more than 10 awards in film festivals from Long Island to Los Angeles.

During the screening of 'Dorian Blues' at the Lake Placid Film Festival in 2004 - a forum Bardwell shared with film veterans Martin Scorsese and Willem Dafoe - the Ballston Spa
movie maker offered that his inspiration for the film was a friendship he struck up with classmate Brian Varga during his college days at Carnegie Mellon. Varga was the first gay person Bardwell had ever met.

'Dorian Blues,' Bardwell said, 'is for anyone who has ever come apart while coming of age.'

His past employment résumé sounds like a character in a Frank Sinatra song.
Bardwell has been a waiter, a lifeguard, a bartender and an all-night convenience store clerk;
a census taker and a pizza delivery guy, in addition to dozens of other gigs.

'This really is my first film attempt," he said.
"It was like walking into a minefield. I'm fortunate that it didn't all just blow up.'

The Bardwells are in the process of securing sites in Albany and Saratoga for the film's regional premier. At the same time, they are moving forward with 'The Skeptic.'

The additional cast for the film includes Zoe Saldana, who has appeared in 'Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,' 'Drumline' and opposite singer Nelly in 'Snipes';
Robert Prosky, known for his on-screen performance in 'The Natural' and on TV's
'Hill Street Blues'; Aida Turturro and Bruce Altman of 'The Sopranos'; Andrea Roth of the mini-series 'A Woman of Independent Means'; and Edward Herman, who recently appeared
in the film 'The Aviator.'

An independently made film, 'Skeptic' does not have a big-time budget, but Bardwell said they were able to secure the big-name cast based on the strength of the script.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in The Saratogian

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Seabiscuit: They shoot horse books, don't they?

SARATOGA SPRINGS - They made him shave off a mustache that took 20 years to grow. Then they wanted him to stand out in the cold for 16 hours. Joe Cavallo say it’s a small price to pay. Just maybe, his 15 minutes of fame will be come, to be witnessed by millions of moviegoers when “Seabiscuit” premieres next year.

After months of preparation, the gang’s all here.

Tuesday marked the first of five consecutive days of filming for the movie “Seabiscuit” -
the first major motion picture filmed here since Robert Redford brought “The Horse Whisperer” crew to Saratoga Springs in 1997.

While star-gazing fans were reduced to peeking through the gates on the closed sets at Saratoga Race Course and Congress Park, a number of regional extras were privy to the goings on inside.
Movie "extra" David Kieserman of Saratoga Springs, word came late Monday that he was in.

“I got the call to report the night before, to come down at 5:30 on Tuesday morning,” said Kieserman, who had already gotten his hair cut to fit the 1930s era, and was ready to go.
“We picked up our costumes and had a very nice breakfast. They laid out a big buffet, then transported us to the other side of the track,” he said.
Much of a day in the life of an extra is spent doing a lot of waiting around.
“We’re doing background and atmosphere scenes,” Kieserman said of his role. “And doing
some scenes behind the principal actors.”

Those principals include Tobey Maguire, cast in the role of jockey Red Pollard; Jeff Bridges,
who portrays Seabiscuit owner Charles Howard; and actress Elizabeth Banks, playing
Howard’s wife, Marcella.

During these daylong shoots, more than 100 actors and crew are at work in the general area.
Kieserman said despite all the down time in a close space to one another, communication with the lead actors is discouraged.
“They all have their staff people around them and they make a point of saying ‘Don’t touch the horses, and don’t talk to the stars.’ Of course, if you have a speaking role, you can talk to them.”

Wendy Goodman Thum, one of the Kentucky-based extra casting associates for “Seabiscuit.”
scouted Spa City eateries and high- traffic areas a week prior to when shooting began looking
for extras to cast.
“We tried to use real horse people from the area, and that was a plus,” said Thum.
“We are delighted to be able to draw on local talent.”

For professional actors like Kieserman, belonging to unions like SAG is a necessary part of
his trade.

“It costs $1,200 to join SAG. After you join, the monthly dues are approximately $66,” he said. His paycheck per movie depends on whether or not he has a speaking role, for which he is paid more.
SAG is upfront about the the lure of fame for its members.

“The truth behind the clichŽs of struggling actors awaiting their ‘big break’ for countless years are only too painfully true,” according to the organization’s Web site. “About 90 percent of our membership must rely on income outside of the acting profession for food and shelter.”

Still, for actors like Kieserman, it is a long-term alliance. He estimates that he has been in
about 40 films, from speaking roles in the Woody Allen films “Broadway Danny Rose” and
“The Purple Rose of Cairo,” to a role in “Ghostbusters II.”

The tedium often associated with the life of an extra is rewarded with time on the big screen and memories.
Kieserman recalled one particularly memorable break during the filming of “The Way We Were” that resulted in a spontaneous game of football on location at Schenectady’s Union College with the movie’s principal actor Robert Redford.

Joe Cavallo is interested in making new memories.
“You can’t say whether you’ll end up on the cutting room floor, or on the big screen,
but you know, I got a shot at it,” he said.

Cavallo - “which in Italian means horse” he says - found himself in the middle of some major players during the filming of “Seabiscuit” at Saratoga Race Course this week.
“The shooting was on the main track, with Unit 1. And if you’re working on Unit 1, you’re
with all the hot shots and the main director,” he said.

Cavallo exchanged pleasantries with Jeff Bridges, hung out with actress Elizabeth Banks and talked shop with director Frank Ross and actor Chris Cooper.

“I talked with Chris about his character in ‘American Beauty’ and told Frank Ross how much
I liked his film ‘Pleasantville.’ He wrote the screenplay and directed that film, just like
he’s doing for ‘Seabiscuit,”‘ Cavallo said.

During Cavallo’s first day of filming, California jockey Rick Frazier - who is playing lead star Tobey Maguire’s double - was filmed in some horse riding action.
“Then they filmed Tobey riding while Jeff Bridges (as Charles Howard) and Banks
(portraying Howard’s wife, Marcella) checked the horse out. It’s an authentic Saratoga scene, they actually bought the horse here,” Cavallo said. “My job during the shoot was to walk up to the rail with a racing form from 1935 just as Tobey’s horse was going by.

“On Wednesday morning, they shot (the character) ‘Red’ being dragged by a horse across the Oklahoma Track,” Cavallo continued. “The afternoon shoot took about four hours and concentrated on Red lying on the ground with a broken leg.
In that scene, I’m 10 to 15 feet away. My job was to rush up to him, and then quickly
back off as this 1936 Packard ambulance comes flying down the lane,” Cavallo said.

“It was pretty funny. They were throwing leaves down and bringing in buckets of ‘blood’ to make the scene authentic as the ambulance is racing across. There must have been 11 or 12 takes and we were saying ‘well, what if he doesn’t hit the brakes. What if this car goes out of control?”‘ Cavallo laughed.

The vehicle used for the ambulance was bought and restored for about $30,000 by a Connecticut family who owns an ambulance service.

“On Thursday we froze our butts off. Let me tell you, they killed us,” Cavallo bristled at the memory of the frosty day. “It was so cold during the shoot we were begging for space heaters. But you know, sitting right there with us was Chris McCarron. Here’s this guy, one of the greatest jockeys of all time, hanging out with us.”

The 47-year old McCarron amassed more earnings than any other jockey in history at the
time of his retirement in June. Still, Cavallo cringes when remembering the feeling, or lack of
feeling in his feet.

“You have these 1930s shoes which have no lining. They’re just straight leather. The feeling
in your toes, that was the worst part.” Or so he thought.
As the long day grew into night, Cavallo found the mounting call of nature impossible to put off much longer. Waiting for a pause in between shots, he seized the opportunity.

“I told one of the assistant directors that I really needed to use the bathroom,” he said.
The breaks in-between filming were fairly long, so Cavallo figured he had plenty of time.
What he didn’t plan on was finding an easy way to slip out of, and then back into his 1930s costume.

“I was wearing an outfit that had suspenders and loops and button pants topped by a three-quarter length coat,” he said. After eventually solving the mystery, he returned to the set.

“Finally, I start heading back to where we’re shooting the scene and I see (extra) Tom Curley just sitting there smiling. The cast is there and the director is there and they’re all pointing at me and laughing, so I said ‘Hey, what’s everybody laughing about?’ Curley looks at me
and says ‘Guess who everybody’s waiting for?”‘

Cavallo’s involvement in the film came as a lucky stroke of coincidence. He was at talking
with a friend Lisa Burke when she mentioned she was working as the local “extra casting” liaison for “Seabiscuit.”

“I said to her geez, you know, I always wanted to be in the movies. So as a joke, she says ‘OK, stand right there and I’ll take your picture.’ I stood against a wall right there in my house, and she snapped a shot. When they called me up a few days later, I couldn’t believe it. I said ‘You gotta be kidding me!”‘

One of the first things Cavallo was warned about were the long pauses in between the action. “They told us there may be as many as five or six hours a day when you’re not doing anything, so I brought along (Laura Hillenbrand’s) book “Seabiscuit” to read. I was standing next to Elizabeth Banks and we were watching them filming a scene. I asked her if she would sign my copy of the book. That’s how this whole thing started.”

During the course of his days on the set, Cavallo enlisted the help of Jeff Bridges’ hairstylist, Tobey Maguire’s makeup person and the kindness of the film crew who filled the book with their signatures.

“Jeff Bridges is just a great guy. He walked right over and started talking to everybody. They were all such wonderfully friendly people,” Cavallo said.
Chris Cooper inscribed his character’s name “Tom Smith” beneath his signature, and Rick Frazier signed on as “Red’s Double.” There are also inscriptions from producer Kathleen Kennedy and jockey Chris McCarron.

The most challenging autograph to get was Tobey Maguire’s. Attaining the star’s signature became an interesting sub-plot among the extras who rooted Cavallo on as the moment of
truth approached.

“I spoke to Maguire’s makeup person and handed her the book,” he said.
“Tobey was sitting in a van along the backstretch and getting ready for a shot.
We were all watching. She took the book with her up to Tobey and fixed his makeup, and paused. He asked her ‘Is there something you want me to do?’ We were all watching from 50 yards away in the background. She said to him ‘I would really like it if you could sign this book.’ And as he took the book to sign it, we were all like yes, yes, yes. We had a lot of fun,” Cavallo said, pointing to Maguire’s signature with the name “Red” scrawled beneath it.

“For me it was a real eye-opening experience,” Cavallo said of the shoot.
“I have so much admiration for the crew people and all the assistants and the directors.
They are there at 3 in the morning and they don’t leave until 8 or 9 at night.
It’s unbelievable how they keep their sense of humor and are so friendly through it all.”

In one of his scenes, Cavallo played a clocker, positioning himself on track’s rail. Next to him, Chris Cooper portrayed trainer Tom Smith. Cavallo marveled at Cooper’s acting ability. As scene after scene was reshot, Cavallo watched and learned from Cooper’s reactions, body movements and gestures. It was dawning on Cavallo that he was in the middle of some big Hollywood doings, when after one particular scene, some assistants came over to mark him.

“When you’re in the camera’s view,” Cavallo said, “they mark you, and give you a number.
My number is S-72. They come up and take a polaroid photo so if they need to re-shoot the scene they know who you are and exactly what you were wearing.”

One scene filmed late into Thursday night will remain with Cavallo for a long time.
“What they were trying to do was recreate daylight, in the early morning hours.
They brought in tons of smoke. The guy who was spraying it - his name was Frank - and (director) Ross is saying ‘more smoke Frank, more smoke - smoke ‘em, smoke ‘em,
smoke ‘em to death,’ and they filled the whole track.
It was an incredible shot. It looked just like it does in those late August, early September mornings at the track,” Cavallo said.

“(Producer) Kathleen Kennedy was there and she came right up to me - she knew I had
worked there years ago - and she said ‘Is this how it was?’
I told her it was just like I remembered it. She said that was exactly what they were trying to do.

“I worked at the track when I was a kid and it looked exactly like it was then. There was a
big fog hanging over everything, as if the sun had risen but you can’t really see anything yet. And slowly, as it starts to get lighter outside you can hear the faint sounds of hoof-beats in the distance,” he said. "It was an incredible scene.”

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in The Saratogian, Nov. 1-3, 2002.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Film Commission brings Hollywood Lights and Cameras to Local Action

SARATOGA SPRINGS - ‘Rhu-barb. Rhu-barb. Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb.”

It’s one of the first things acting students are taught to repeat over and over to create the illusion of conversational chatter.
Linda Toohey, who heads up the Saratoga County Film Commission for the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, has heard the background rumblings before.

The Spa City has hosted a number of cinematic shoots in recent years, including major film productions “Billy Bathgate” in 1990 and “The Horse Whisperer” in 1997.
The rumblings are being heard once again with the film adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s nonfiction bestseller, “Seabiscuit: An American Legend.”

For Toohey, in fairy-tale fashion, it all began once upon a time more than 20 years ago.
“I came to the chamber in 1980,” said Toohey, executive vice president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. “I got my feet wet when ‘Ghost Story’ was being filmed in Saratoga Springs.”

A handful of Victorian-era area homes on and around North Broadway were selected for inclusion in the 1981 film that starred John Houseman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Fred Astaire. The shooting brought in some major stars, notoriety and - for local area businesses - some much-appreciated revenue.

Enter the Saratoga County Film Commission and Toohey as its commissioner.
While she said that the “film” part of her job occupies only about five to 10 percent of her time, Toohey has traveled to California for meetings with top executives at Warner Bros. and Universal Studios, and has developed leads with the help of the governor’s New York City-based film commission.
She is one of approximately a half-dozen film commissioners in the state, which includes the regions of Long Island, Rochester and the Lower Hudson Valley.
Is there a staff?
“Oh, it’s just me,” she said, sitting in her office on Clinton Street.
Opposite her building, a row of pink, green and auburn-tinged Victorian homes
built in 1872 are a daily reminder of the historical significance of this town.
Toohey explained how it all works.

“A major motion picture will have somebody on staff who calls around to every state, and says we’re looking for this or that for a particular scene,” Toohey said.
“I’ll get calls that ask ‘Do you have a bow bridge?’ or ‘I’m looking for a farmhouse with a white picket fence and a long country road lined with trees.’
At other times, it’ll be ‘Do you have a stadium that looks like Pompeii?’ So we get lots of calls, and that creates opportunity,” she said, walking up to a tall metal cabinet labeled “Location Files.”

Inside the folders, a series of photographs are referenced as to the visual scenery of particular areas. Individual snapshots are strung together to produce a panoramic effect, showcasing an entire area from all sides. There are country settings, rural farmhouses and 19th century architecture.
These are used both as reference and to lure film companies.

“I will show them photos of the racecourse and the stables, but then we’ll go and look at other buildings, also. The racecourse is an asset for us, but far and away the biggest asset we have here is the state park,” she said of the 2,100-acre greenery that houses everything from pools and picnic areas to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

When the call comes out for a specific image, Toohey looks for it in the files. She contacts town supervisors who will look for it a particular location in their own neighborhoods, and gets in her car and does some old-fashioned detective work, looking to locate scenic images that resemble what a given film company is looking for.

The seemingly long distance from Hollywood doesn’t appear to be much of a detriment, according to Toohey.

“If they choose to go past L.A., then they’re going on location, and it doesn’t really matter (to them) whether it’s somewhere in Montana or in New York state.”

For studios that have already been sold on the area, Toohey works the art of the add-on sale, investigating other area locales that may hold additional appeal. Having a crew work locally, even for one more day, can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars to area businesses and, ultimately, the community.

In the fall of 1990, 3,000 area hopefuls tried out as extras for the filming of “Billy Bathgate.” Approximately one-third were chosen for the three-week shoot at Saratoga Race Course, the Hall of Springs and at the Gideon Putnam Hotel.

While film fans star-snooped for Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Willis, Nicole Kidman and then-boyfriend Tom Cruise, the economic impact on the county was estimated at $3 million.
After a film is secured, the majority of the work falls into the category of a support and referencing center for the visiting crews.

“It’s about making good contacts and creating relationships,” Toohey said, which goes a long way in securing future projects.

“Our job is one of encouragement,” she added. A positive experience from a director or a film crew film can lead to more opportunities down the road.
“Anyone who works on a film is basically a freelancer, working for different films at different times,” Toohey said. A good experience and a growing familiarity with Saratoga Springs
can lead to big things in the future.

Bringing film companies into the area is an extension of the chamber’s work, according to Toohey, leafing through stacks of proposals, independent film ideas, cable shorts and TV commercial proposals. However, the reality is that the major films bring the most people and money into the area.

“Here’s one proposal” she said, pulling a file from the group. “A crew of six people want to film three days at the police station. They have a budget of $25,000. With this, I can offer some advice, and give them the name of the police chief and let them take it from there,” Toohey said.

“When it’s a major motion picture, I will take them to the police station, and meet with the police chief, or meet with the fire chief, or whoever they need.
“It’s not just that they come in for a week and shoot the film,” Toohey said. “They’re staying at local hotels, eating at area restaurants, getting their clothes dry cleaned and going to stores to buy things.”

As a nonprofit organization, the commission doesn’t earn money for selling of the area or organizing crews. Nor does it get involved in areas like financing films. Its job is an extension
of the chamber, in creating opportunities for the area, working as a conduit between visiting crews and local businesses and their services.

“During the filming of ‘The Horse Whisperer,’ the location manager purchased a mountain bike here,” Toohey said. “And during ‘Billy Bathgate,’ someone bought a horse. So they visit a lot of spots and they spend a lot of money; even the unlikeliest businesses receive benefits from the film making.”

During the seven-day “Seabiscuit” visit, more than 200 people are expected in the area, and an informational resource brochure has been created for the visiting crew, listing everything from area restaurants to dry cleaners.

“They rent computers, they buy office supplies,” Toohey said. “While they’re here, they need lots of stuff.”

About a dozen workers came in earlier this month and began construction in reorganizing the racecourse to look consistent with the films’ 1920s and ‘30s motif, which included removing everything from later 20th century fixtures, such as televisions and vending machines.
The entire crew is expected in town for the commencement of filming on Tuesday.
Shooting will continue through Saturday, with an off-day on Sunday. The departure date is currently scheduled for Monday, Nov. 4, although Toohey added, “These things are always subject to change.”

For the weeklong visit, she expects close to $1 million will be generated in the area, although locals hoping for silver-screen stardom may be disappointed. Similar to the April 1997 filming of “The Horse Whisperer,” few local extras will be needed, and most have been filled by Actor’s Guild members.

Still, celebrity seekers will undoubtedly have their eyes peeled for stars Tobey “Spider-Man” Maguire and Jeff Bridges. Maguire is the film’s star, playing jockey Red Pollard.

Locations here include the barn area of Saratoga Race Course and Canfield Casino. Other locations for “Seabiscuit” are said to include Kentucky’s Keeneland Racecourse and the Santa Anita racetrack in California. The film is scheduled for theater release in the fall of 2003.

Toohey, who started working on the “Seabiscuit” project nearly eight months ago, bringing the project to fruition is another notch in the film commission’s belt.

Behind her desk, a framed poster signed by Robert Redford reads:
“To the People of Saratoga and Washington County” and is essentially a long thank-you letter for the hospitality he and his crew encountered during their stay.
With the lights at the ready to be turned bright once again and the cameras ready to roll, Toohey said just about everything is in place.

“We want to make sure, on our end, that for everyone involved, we make it
a successful visit.”

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in The Saratogian, Oct. 25, 2002.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Art of Illusion: Storytelling and Fantasy

ARGYLE - The drive goes on for miles, deep in the heart of God’s country.
The landscape is speckled with half-stemmed stalks that stand in the middle of naked cornfields, creaky redwood barns worn by time, and cow-dappled fields alongside dairy farms whose long, rolling hills tumble into the horizon waiting for harvest.

It’s a long way from 12th Street and Avenue B in Manhattan.

David Thomas Lloyd and Christopher Detmer relocated from New York City to the rural farmlands of upstate New York 30 years ago, where they partnered up to form
Adirondack Scenic Inc., not a household name to be sure, but chances are if you’ve ventured anywhere outside your door in the past 20 years, you’ve seen their work.

What they created in the company’s Argyle studios has been displayed in Ripley’s
Believe it or Not Museum in Hollywood to the Hard Rock Café in Dubai, from doing the production and design for Six Flags’ “Batman” to the Washington Opera’s “Carmen”
and collaborations in the visual scenery staged by everyone from Ringling Bros. &
Barnum & Bailey Circus to the Rolling Stones.

“The biggest problem was getting people to realize where we were,” said Lloyd.
“The telephone was our life line and if the lines went down - as they occasionally did in Warrensburg in the 1970s - then that was it. There was no Internet at that time;
There was no fax - it was just wires and smoke signals.”

Inside the massive 120,000-square-foot building, colorful swatches hang from the walls
inside the building’s main lobby. One room holds western props and Indian headdresses. Blueprints and draft designs mark another.
The hangar-sized production areas buzz with saws, droning machines and the hollow clanking
of hammers. In a quieter area, others are delicately sanding, cutting and painting.

There is a staff of 85, a variety of acoustical experts, theater consultants and other
specialists collaborate in the various stages of design and development for the company.
By the time a piece is completed, many hands have been a part of the work.

“We get a flurry of activity in the spring from people like Aerosmith calling up and saying
‘I need a backdrop for my tour,’ things along those lines,” Lloyd said.
“We also get quite a bit of work for amusement parks, as well as more museum-quality
pieces for shopping malls, restaurants and retail places.”

The company has just finished three attractions for Universal Studios in Japan and a pair
of big blue buses are being prepped for the Main Street Parade at Six Flags in New Jersey.

“It’s all based on some sort of storytelling,” Lloyd said. “It’s really about communicating some fantasy to somebody.”

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in The Saratogian, 2002.