Amish countryside

The Amish homes and rolling hills of the town of Allen have come to the attention of Hollywood as Paramount Pictures starts production of a movie there.

ALLEN — “I’m ready for my closeup,” faded silent film actress Norma Desmond declares in the film noir classic “Sunset Boulevard.”

Today, so is Allegany County.

But the county’s movie career is far brighter than that of the actress in the dark movie. The Paramount Pictures’ movie currently filming in the town of Allen is just the first of many coming attractions, according to Tim Clark, commissioner of the Buffalo Niagara Film Office in Buffalo.

Clark is part of why the film company picked an Amish-built house on Old State Road and moved a film crew into the recently vacated Maple Tree Inn parking lot.

However, Clark is bound by confidentiality not to reveal the name of the film, its plot, who’s starring, the location and a sack full of other details that locals are eager to learn.

He does say, “I expect a theatrical release for the movie in a year or so.”

COVID-19, while shutting down movie theaters, created a crisis in the film industry Clark said.

“People are sitting at home watching Netflix and other on-demand venues and they are clamoring for new movies,” he said.

Which is just one of the reasons Allegany County and the Western New York area has come into focus.

Clark’s job with the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission is to “scout” the area and to know what is available, no matter what kind of film plot comes down the pike — which could be a busy avenue for Hollywood directors and producers.

“We’ve come to the attention of Hollywood,” Clark said, noting that recently the horror/sci-fi sequel “A Quiet Place II” was filmed in Western New York. “The producer and director (John Krasinski) saw the beauty and rural nature of the Southern Tier and thought it a perfect setting.”

There is a small cache of movies that have been filmed all or in part in the villages and towns of the Southern Tier, Clark said, recalling that scenes in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II” were filmed in a Buffalo and that East Aurora’s quaint Main Street has been the site of many Christmas movies.

Scenes from “Pirates of the Caribbean” were filmed in Niagara Falls, Olean has appeared in gangster movies, and who could forget Robert Redford twiddling his thumbs on the porch of the train station in Arcade in “The Natural”?

“We (the film commission) handle the intake. We know our region. We go into Allegany, and the other counties in the Southern Tier so we know what is available,” Clark said. “Western New York has caught the eye of Hollywood. They know what New York City looks like and now they’re looking at us.”

Coupled with the historic scenery and untouched rural nature of the area that is not too far away from major metropolitan areas, where camera and sound equipment can be found in Rochester and Buffalo, Clark said the other big attraction of Western New York is the state’s lucrative incentives for film production.

“New York state offers very good incentives to make pictures here,” he said.

And not to be downplayed, he said, is the nature of the people.

“The Hollywood people are used to dealing with impolite and greedy people. Here the welcoming spirit of the people is a nice change for them,” Clark said.

Even with that welcoming nature, the Allen movie set is still closed to the public and guards patrol the staging area.

“It is private property, and they want to keep a low profile,” he said.

“Here, they can even find their extras,” he said noting that a casting call for Amish-looking actors and actresses went out in January for the Allen movie and was well attended.

While there is an immediate boost to the local economy with sales of less expensive goods, from gasoline and food to lodging and lumber and other items to build sets, Clark said a long-term impact of movies is tourism.

“I was talking to the mayor of East Aurora, and he told me about walking into a café one day and noticing a couple that were unfamiliar to him,” he said. “He asked them why they were in his village and he told me that they said they were there because they’d seen the village in so many Christmas movies that they wanted to see it for themselves. They were from Ohio.

“Walking on the same sidewalks, standing in the same spot your favorite actor stood in is gaining in popularity and becoming a real part of tourism,” he said.

Yet, while there is a history of movies being shot in the Southern Tier, Clark said the area has not been overexposed.

“That’s cinematic gold for movie makers,” he said.

With the increase of the visibility of the Southern Tier, Clark said that he is “always on the prowl” for new and different and unique locations.

“We’re always getting leads on new movie projects,” he said, “and (movie companies) will go anywhere. The Southern Tier is appealing to them. With its easy access to airports and highways and cities and beautiful rolling hills and fields, farms, small towns and villages, it makes the perfect Hollywood cocktail.”

Clark said that while he visits Allegany County a couple of times a month he would be interested in receiving any information on unique or interesting sites that are available. He may be contacted on the commission’s website at www.filmbuffaloniagara.com.

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