Filming on location in Connecticut with Mark Dixon
Mark has been based at the Connecticut Film (CT) Office since 2000. Before joining the film office he spent nearly 15 years in the locations department on various feature films and TV commercials.
Tell me about the region that you cover
As Location Services Manager at the CT Office of Film Television & Digital Media I am responsible for location filming in the state of Connecticut. We have a wide variety of locations from rolling countryside and pristine coastline through to gritty inner cities and sprawling suburbia, all of which are no more than an hour apart.
Connecticut is one of the six New England states located in the most north-eastern part of the country. Geographically the state is one of the smallest in the US at just 5,000 square miles and its southern border is along the 253-mile coastline on the shores of the Long Island Sound. It’s bordered by New York to the west, Rhode Island to the east and Massachusetts to the north, and has a population of nearly four million.
There is no county or provincial level of Government, so we here at the film office work directly with all the local officials, as well as the state agencies to co-ordinate film and television productions.
How does your office operate?
Filming in Connecticut is relatively easy. We are fortunate to have a network of outstanding local film liaisons across the state. Most of the small towns do not require permits. Cities such as Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport, New Haven and New London require permits and have a designated film liaison person who works with both the State Film Office and the production company. We are also blessed with having the complete support of the Administration and all of our state agencies.
We work with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and also with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Corrections. There are three prison and jail facilities that have been made available for recent productions like We Need To Talk About Kevin.
Kevin was really an example of how much help we get from our state agencies. I got a call from the Location Manager one afternoon. He needed to take over a high school as the main location for the film’s massacre scene. The next day we scouted a vacant state-owned technical high school that I had tucked away in my files and we walked out of the building with an agreement to use the school that afternoon.
Connecticut is known for its universities, colleges and prep schools. The film office serves as a liaison between these institutions and the film industry to co-ordinate on campus productions.
Connecticut is within the jurisdiction of the New York City Theatrical and Motion Picture unions. There is a very talented crew base that resides in the state for independent features and co-productions.
Most of the crew for studio features are drawn from New York City. Connecticut is within the jurisdiction of the New York City Theatrical and Motion Picture unions. There is a very talented crew base that resides in the state for independent features and co-productions.
The film tax credits and Connecticut’s proximity to New York City have dramatically increased the level of production in the state. Not only has there been a tremendous level of feature work, but now a bricks-and-mortar industry is starting to emerge. ESPN has its headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, while NBC and WWE have major production studios in Stamford and Norwalk.
TV shows The Big C and Are We There Yet? film on stages at the Connecticut Film Centre in Stamford. Sonalysts Studios in Waterford has also been host to shows like The Bronx is Burning and Deal Or No Deal.
What locations are most commonly used by film and TV crews?
We get a lot of ‘classic New England’ location requests. Coastal towns, colonial villages and other archetypes are popular. We recently stood in for both the Mid-West and the state of Maine on the production of Great Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones.
We also get many requests to double for New York City. We are constantly scouted for our academic locations. Yale University has been popular for films like Mona Lisa Smile, The Life Before Her Eyes, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2 and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull. Many of our prep schools such as The Taft School and Choate are very film-friendly and have had numerous productions film on campus.
We have several unique locations such as Mystic Seaport and the Essex Valley Railroad. Whether you need a tall ship or a steam locomotive, Connecticut has it.
What are the rare and more unusual locations?
One of our unique locations is the Park River Conduit, which is a 2.3-mile cement tunnel that carries the Park River under the city of Hartford and empties into the Connecticut River.
We also get many requests to double for New York City. We are constantly scouted for our academic locations.
There’s also the Litchfield County Quarry and Mine, which offers a very unusual 600-foot-long mine tunnel.
What has been your most difficult location assignment to date and why?
During the filming of Reservation Road in 2007 we were asked to close down a large stretch of state highway for an entire night. It was something that had never been done here before and it took quite a lot of work to get everybody on board. In the end it was very well done with almost no complaints from the motorists who had to be detoured on and off the highway.
Are there any particular tips that you would like to share?
We receive many inquires relating to the best time to film peak foliage in the fall. The peak is generally around the second week in October, but you can never be quite certain. This year we had a hurricane in August and that had a dramatic impact on the colours later on in the autumn.
We tend to get a lot of requests to film in some of our key tourist towns such as Mystic, Stonington and Essex. These towns are all very film-friendly but it’s best not to shoot in them from the end of May to the beginning of September to avoid the tourist season when streets will be full and hotels booked.
Which are the best airports to use to film in your region and who flies there?
The airports one would travel to from Europe would be JFK in New York and Logan in Boston.
What are the most film-crew-friendly hotels?
In general almost all of our hotels are very film-friendly. The Delmar Hotel in Greenwich, the Omni Hotel in New Haven, The Holiday Inn and the Hilton Hotel in Stamford are some of the hotels that come to mind.
There are usually set costs for Public Liability cover for film units and costs for insuring locations. Can you tell us about location insurance and possibly examples of costs in your region?
A standard USD1 million dollar comprehensive policy will suffice in most instances. Higher coverage is needed for aerial and stunt work.
What do you do with your time off and what would you recommend crew and cast do to relax?
Connecticut has great opportunities for outdoor recreation such as sailing and kayaking, as well as hiking and bicycling. The state’s also close to New York City and Boston, Cape Cod, Newport Rhode Island, Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. I spend my holidays with my wife Lisa exploring the highlands of Scotland.
To contact Mark click here
(Photo credit: Mark Dixon)
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