The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

When Hollywood comes to Queens College: why and how filming occurs so regularly on campus

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While many shows film on the Queens College campus, the producers of Manifest used the THHS exterior for one of their scenes, as depicted above.
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In a city as renowned as New York, it should come as no surprise that media and entertainment surround us. However, it is still quite a shock to walk out of school and be met by an endless line of film production trucks. This past December, filming for the pilot episode of HBO’s new show, Girls on the Bus, began on the Queens College campus. Naturally, cast and crew members were seen throughout the area between the Townsend Harris building and the Queens College (QC) campus. Some students saw crew dragging things like camera equipment and racks of clothing to and fro. The star of the show, Supergirl’s very own Melissa Benoist, was seen exiting a trailer and making her way into QC. 

Surprisingly, this kind of event is nothing new to the areas surrounding THHS. Filming for different shows, movies, and commercials has taken place right next door for years at QC. The Classic spoke to the Director and Assistant Director of QC’s Office of Venue Rentals and Events, Brenna St. George Jones and THHS alumna Natasha Netto, respectively, who shared the lengthy history of filming at QC. 

The process is fairly simple, the two said. “They call us with a vision, we try to make it work… [then] they come and take pictures, and we work through [the] logistics,” said Ms. Netto. Making arrangements isn’t too complicated either despite the fact that QC is constantly full of students and staff. Ms. St. George Jones said, “[The process is] generally maybe three to four days long. [It can happen in] as quick as 48 hours, [but it’s] generally a two week project.”

Logistically, booking parts of QC is just like setting up any other appointment. “We list things on our website, and if they like anything, Natasha will send drawings or pictures. There will be initial scout[s], which is usually one or two people to take pictures,” said Ms. St. George Jones. “They take them back to the director and production companies. If they see potential, a larger group comes, and Natasha takes them somewhere else. If they make it to the second round, they come back with technical scouts (trucks, trailers, etc.).”

Due to its wide campus and various locations, different parts of QC can be used for multiple different purposes. 

“We’re a chameleon,” said Ms. St. George Jones. “In the past ten years, we’ve been Russia, a prison, [a] construction site, and more because it’s a campus with crazy architectural layering and big green spaces.” “[If they] need an office, there are classrooms. [There’s also the] quad. [They] don’t have to go to different locations, [which is] another reason why QC is popular,” said Ms. Netto. 

Although there is no definitive list of what’s been filmed at QC, Ms. St. George Jones said they have worked with “companies that have filmed for Paramount, ABC, HBO, Apple, [and] Amazon.” She adds that they’ve been approached by “everything [including] reality shows, sketch comedy shows, [and] ESPN did a launch of their big hockey coverage [here].” 

The Classic was unable to speak to the cast or crew of Girls on the Bus. One crew member said that they “were not allowed to speak to the public,” and to “refer to anything that was already online.” Neither Ms. Netto nor Ms. St. George Jones was able to confirm what was filming on campus either. 

According to Ms. St. George Jones, this is fairly normal for production companies, though the rules are slightly different based on the company’s contract. “There are two levels,” she said. “One is a confidentiality agreement, [so] you can talk amongst yourselves but not to the public. [An] NDA is different, you can’t tell anyone (QC signs it). [There are] severe financial consequences [to violating the NDA],” Ms. St. George Jones said. The company that was filming in December and QC had a confidentiality agreement. Neither Ms. Netto nor Ms. St. George Jones could disclose anything regarding the show (nor even confirm that it was filming at QC), but two individuals working on the production disclosed the title to The Classic

Aside from the logistical hassle, both Ms. Netto and Ms. St. George Jones recall many memorable moments from various shoots, though not all pleasant. “[Once], we hired an outside contractor, and [they] broke a fence post and hid it under [the] snow.” Their plan proved to be unsuccessful, as Ms. St. George Jones said, “there were cameras there.” They had some odd and unexpected experiences from on set as well. Ms. Netto recalled “a scene where they were throwing [a fake baby] off a roof. [It was] really interesting to see [how the fake] baby fell the right way.”

While it is entertaining to watch the “magic” happen from behind the scenes, there are a lot of tedious aspects to the job, they said. “We had a scene when someone was falling into a pool. [It took] 48 hours for a 10 minute [scene],” said Ms. St. George Jones

Unfortunately, Ms. St. George Jones clarified that students cannot get their five seconds of fame by accidentally walking through a set. “Extras are all settled [beforehand]. There are people who are professional extras. It’s a traveling city.” Though they make sure to clear areas while filming, they’ve had some more difficult circumstances. Ms. St. George Jones said, “We’ve had cases where staff members went crazy over stars [on campus] and had to be removed.” 

“We are privileged to be such a large part of the arts, [which brings] nearly a billion dollars to the city,” said Ms. St. George Jones.

Some projects which were shot in and around QC include scenes from the show Manifest, which was filmed in 2018. Whereas some shows try to stay quiet when filming, the star of Manifest, Josh Dallas, spoke to The Classic and encouraged students to watch the show when it premiered. The episode shot on campus uses the THHS exterior (which is visible in season one of the show), as well as the part of QC where THHS’ Humanities Symposium takes place. Scenes for shows including Maniac, The Americans, The Confines, Person of Interest, The Lennon Report and Inside Amy Schumer have been filmed at the college too. “It’s a fun game to play to see if you can spot QC,” said Ms. St. George Jones. “If you have watched network TV, purchased any major television, [then the] odds are very high that you’ve seen QC [on TV].”

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Reem Nasrallah
Reem Nasrallah, Classic Business Director
Reem Nasrallah is a senior at Townsend Harris High School. She enjoys lifting, going on runs, and binge-watching her favorite shows ("Suits" is the current obsession)
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