Sarah Emmerling and Malika-Budur Kalila
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – On Friday Oct. 13, Marshall, a courtroom drama about the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, was released. The movie was directed by Reginald Hudlin and stars Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall, Josh Gad as Samuel Friedman, and Kate Hudson as Eleanor Strubing. It explores an important case in Marshall’s career as an NAACP lawyer, years before Brown v. Board of Education. This new film is particularly exciting for Western New York as it was filmed in Buffalo and features many artists in the community.
Niagara University Theatre professors Adriano Gatto, Josie DiVincenzo, and Doug Zschiegner were among those involved. Filming took place during the summer of 2016 at various Buffalo landmarks.
“Buffalo is a great city for filmmaking,” Zschiegner commented. “There are a lot of old historic buildings that haven’t been torn down. The architecture is stunning. We have the train station at Central Terminal, the Courthouse, City Hall, and the Statler Hotel. All of those locations worked perfectly. Buffalo looks so good in this movie.”
Zschiegner was a featured extra who played the assistant to the prosecutor in the trial scenes. Because his role put him right in the middle of the action, he was able to learn a lot from the experience.
“The best part was just being able to watch,” he explained. “Every time the director talked to the stars, I was right there, so I could hear everything. I was able to see so many different approaches to acting. I also learned about the different crews, as well as the quantity of those jobs and their importance.”
Zschiegner was also able to get to know some of the stars of the movie, particularly Dan Stevens, who is known for his roles as Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey and the Beast in Beauty and the Beast.
“Dan Stevens played the prosecutor,” he stated. “He sat right next to me so we could whisper and talk a lot. I got to know him pretty well.”
Zschiegner also commented on the differences between working on stage and on film, and about how one of the goals of the NU Theatre program is to prepare students for both types of work.
“Film actors must have all the honesty and immediacy of stage work because the camera is so close,” he explained. “They can’t lie. They also need different kinds of techniques to repeat something exactly the same way when the camera comes from a different angle, or knowing how far away the camera is and how to project. Here, we strive to prepare theatre students for film opportunities, so it was great to be able to learn more from this experience.”
He also mentioned Governor Cuomo’s tax cuts, which are meant to encourage filmmakers to visit and use the region in their work. The cuts offer movie producers an extra credit of 10 percent of qualified production and post-production costs for films in Upstate New York counties.
Buffalo is becoming a popular filming destination. There are several movies currently being made in the area, including the fourth part of the Purge series and The True Adventures of Wolfboy featuring John Turturro, Chloë Sevigny, and Jaeden Lieberher. More movie companies are utilizing the city, bringing more opportunities to local artists and students interested in the film industry.
“Movie companies can get a lot by coming to Buffalo,” he said. “So there’s been a lot of new movies here lately.”