By Laura Sanicola
It is not an uncommon sight at Fordham to see tripods set up on Eddie’s, generators lining the A-Lot and actors strolling across campus. For years, film crews have utilized Fordham’s Rose Hill campus, with its gothic architecture and facilities, an arrangement that has earned the university a significant amount of money.
“This is a very helpful process to our students, faculty and staff,” said John Carroll, vice president of Public Safety. “It brings revenue to the university and anything that brings revenue to the university, is a positive thing because the university is doing everything to keep our tuition costs down.”
According to Mark Valera, vice president of facilities, film crews can bring in between $80,000 — $200,000 depending on how many shoots take place on campus.
For a university that makes almost 94 percent of its revenue from student tuition, that is not a small estimate.
So far this year, Valera reports that the university has already made around $75,000 in revenue from hosting film crews, including American drama series Gotham.
Expenses incurred by the film crew are usually paid by the film crew, and after that the money goes into a “general fund,” according to Valera.
And if it seems like there are more film crews on campus as of late, that is because there are, thanks to a change of legislation which made it possible.
“In the past couple years the films were not given tax preferences by the city, so we saw a lot less activity on campus,” Valera said. The New York State Film Production Tax Credit program provides qualifying film and television productions with a 30% credit for qualified production expenditure. In April 2013 new legislation extended the program through 2019, allocating $420 million per year.
Fordham’s history film credits include several big hits, including the 1973 horror thriller, the Exorcist, and a Ron Howard Best Picture winner, A Beautiful Mind.” Both films featured scenes in the basement of Keating Hall.
More recent credits include more movies made for television and drama series such as Madame Secretary and Gotham.
“The university sees 8-10 major films and TV shows filmed here annually,” Valera said.
Mark Valera is in charge of much of the coordination of film crews on campus. When a crew asks him whether or not they can use campus for filming, several university administrators are contacted for approval. Despite the value of additional revenue, film crews do not always get the green light.
“Just because they ask, doesn’t mean the answer is yes. It is probably no more than it is yes,” said Mr. Carroll.
“This is a university, it’s not a place to shoot film… we are very careful to make sure that it no way disturbs or disrupts the academic mission of the university.”
Therefore, before a film crew is approved, administrators look at events schedules, class schedules and club schedules.
“Students first, classes first, events first, film last. Film is at the bottom of the pile,” Carroll said.
However, some students find themselves considerably inconvenienced when campus filming causes them to have to change their course without a notice, a matter which was brought to the United Student Government in September.
“At first it is exciting, the thought of having filming on campus,” said Abby Heinmeyer, FCRH ‘17. “However, that feeling soon subsides when we have to reroute on the way to class because the crews are using a particular area. It would be extremely helpful if the student body was notified so that we don’t have to go through the aggravation and risk being late to class.”
At the most recent Student Life Council, USG president Ashley Domagola, FCRH ‘16 brought up an initiative to alert students beforehand about where films are being shot on campus so they can reroute their paths accordingly.
“I feel as though any issue students have with on-campus filming could easily be resolved with an email,” agreed Phil Bedard, FCRH ‘17.
Mr. Carroll believes such a notification is unnecessary.
“I’d be killing these kids with all this information to no avail,” he said. “They shouldn’t be rerouting their paths, that shouldn’t be happening…it doesn’t affect you unless you’re walking down one particular pathway for a short period of time,” he added.
Carroll assured that roadways never get closed for film crews. “There may be a time for two minutes when an actor needs to walk across the road and we might say, ‘Hey guys can you hold off for a few minutes.’ But we would never shut them down altogether.”
Instead, Carroll says the university tries to plan filming on Saturdays or Sundays “when it doesn’t interfere with anyone.”
Some students like Cailee Tallon, FCRH ‘18 , are of the opinion that film crews can be an important source of revenue for the university.
“I think that it’s a smart way to increase income for the university and it is a good way to publicize Fordham in a different way,” Tallon said.
Before approving a film crew on campus, the university must assess if they are equipped with the right resources to host a film crew, then consider the legal requirements and insurance costs, reported Valera. “The types of shoots they are going to do factors into the decision,” Valera said.
Despite being a Jesuit university, Fordham’s campus has played host to a variety of films and music videos. Carroll and Valera affirm that some content review of the script takes place beforehand.
“We’re not going to let a porno shoot on campus, or anything like that,” assured John Carroll.However, the film does not have be “Jesuit” by all standards, as evidenced by the music video of Fat Joe’s hit song “What’s Luv” featuring Ashanti which was shot in the Rose Hill gymnasium.
If a movie or film is approved, students likely won’t see Fordham’s name on the big screen at all. “We typically ask that Fordham’s name not be shown in the film,” Mr. Carroll said.
Such is the case in Madame Secretary, where Fordham’s campus stands in for Georgetown University. By deflecting its identity, Fordham can protect itself from any association of the film’s content.
Valera also finds that the benefits of revenue, the experience seeing me show on television and the possibility of being an extra outweigh the cons of film crews.
“Thinking of my college days we had one or two times that a number of students were extras in a film shot on campus, and that was always a lot of fun,” Valera said.
There is one comment
Rumor has it that the administration stopped “Gossip Girl” from filming on campus due to issues with the show’s content.