The TV Business Comes to STAC

Andrew Dacuba, Editor in Chief

STAC and the television business are two things that students likely would not associate with each other, which is why it may be a surprise to learn a TV crew was based out of the school’s parking lot only a semester ago. 

While the filming took place at the nearby Rockland County Sewer Plant and not at STAC itself, members of the crew stayed at the STAC campus for the brief duration of the shoot.

Last November, STAC Communications sent out an email informing students of a temporary parking lot closure in the rear lot behind the Kraus Fitness Center. The lot was closed from Sunday, November 6th to Monday the 7th.

Those parked nearby on the 6th and 7th may have felt more like they were in a Hollywood shoot than behind Spellman Hall, with trucks, trailers, a food truck, and crew members walking about.

The Thoma was fortunate enough to speak with several members of the crew, and while they were not at liberty to reveal what they were working on, they gave insight into the complex work that goes into filming a television show.

John, a truck driver for the Teamster Union, spoke about his duties driving one of the campers. 

The crew brought numerous campers for actors, actresses, producers, hair and makeup, wardrobe, etc, however, his responsibility was the COVID unit. This is the camper where all of the COVID tests are done, in order to ensure everyone is healthy and there are no interruptions to the shoot.

John spoke about the biggest challenge working in the business, which he said was getting into it. “There’s just a surge of shows and movies coming into New York that they were just desperate for guys, for workers,” which is how he was able to get in.

Prior to this recent surge, he said it was mostly based on who you knew, especially having a family connection. For other unions in the entertainment industry, he stated it was equally difficult. 

“To get into the rest of the unions, it’s pretty difficult. You have to know someone, be up to date, you have to be on top of whenever there’s an opening. It’s very sought after.”

The crew was using STAC as a “base camp” as it is called in the industry, which is usually either a church or a college campus. 

Kat McFadden, the second assistant director on the shoot, also spoke about her duties. McFadden has worked in the industry for 18 years, on projects such as Law and Order, The Punisher, The Bourne Legacy, and The Dark Knight Rises.

Regarding her duty as an assistant director, she spoke about the assistant directors’ responsibilities in scheduling and logistics. 

The first assistant director will take the script and create a schedule which goes out to the entire crew. The second assistant director is in charge of keeping track of who is working each day, ensuring the right equipment is on set, and organizing transportation to the set.

Assistant directors also deal with casting and making sure actors are ready for the shoot. 

The biggest challenge McFadden has faced, she said without missing a beat, has been COVID. 

“Anytime you need to replace somebody, it becomes a thing. Particularly with the way that we work, we’re still taking 10 days off if you test positive,” she said.

“Your typical television show is gonna be somewhere between eight and 14 days, so when you have somebody who’s out for 10 days and they’re scheduled in your episode, it makes things very difficult,” she continued.

The toughest part about this, she said, was the unpredictability. 

“It’s not the sort of thing where you get a heads up.”

COVID safety requirements have also created additional challenges, McFadden said. With social distancing, only a small number of people can ride to set in a large van or bus.

Thankfully, McFadden says since vaccines were made available the social distancing requirements have relaxed and things have become easier.

Using the STAC Campus as a base camp, she said, was a big help for the shoot. It means the crew does not have to park on the set at the sewage plant, and all the associated trailers and equipment will not get in the way of the shoot on a day with limited hours of usable daylight.

While McFadden could not say what exactly the crew was filming, keep an eye out on the TV screen this year for STAC’s familiar neighbor.