Picture this: an alternate NYC where the black market reigns, crime is off the rails, and financial demise has closed down businesses. Oh, and at the center of this chaotic underworld and the NYPD cops trying to bust it? Taxis and a fashion photographer, of course (because every crime thriller needs a fashion photographer as its lead).
This isn’t anyone’s typical idea of a Saturday evening, but it was a daily premise for the over 400 extras and 30 cast members on the set of television series Big Dogs throughout its year filming in Orange County from July 1 to November 17, 2017.
*Warning: Trailer contains graphic language and violence.
Big Dogs is a newly released, eight-episode series produced by Choice Films and featuring recognizable faces like Manny Perez from Homeland and Brett Cullen from Joker and Ghost Rider. More than the Hollywood faces, however, some locals may find other familiar sights in the show, like Middletown’s Touro College, the Vault in Beacon, and locations all throughout Newburgh, including Downing Park and the Karpeles Museum, according to Orange County Tourism and Film Director Amanda Dana. The Hudson Valley Film Commission says the show filmed at ten locations in Beacon, Middletown, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, and Wappingers Falls and hired over 200 locals for day acting and crew.
So how does an alternative, semi-apocalyptic NYC show end up filmed in Orange County? Dana explains that “it was important to find a production base that had great, diverse locations, an easy permitting process, affordability for productions with lots of local vendors, and a strong local crew base. The Mid-Hudson Valley had all of that.”
A key draw to the area was the proximity to New York City and access to Umbra Stages, a fully equipped production soundstage in Newburgh which became the filming headquarters for the show. But it is the diverse filming locations that really draw attention, since the Hudson Valley is home to several intriguing sites that provided easy “cheats” for popular Manhattan locations.
Downing Park in Newburgh is one of those cheats, since it serves as a stand-in for Central Park. According to Dana, “the designer of Central Park in New York City [ed. note: Calvert Vaux] also designed Downing Park in the City of Newburgh, so there were many areas that were a perfect match for producers to cheat NYC.” Many other locations throughout the Hudson Valley act as similar NYC “cheats” in the show, like most of the filming done in Newburgh, which became a central filming location due to its urban setting and proximity to Umbra Stages.
With the right setting and the help of green screen technology, the series transforms Hudson Valley locations into NYC hotspots. Downing Park becomes Central Park, Liberty Street in Newburgh transforms into the Big Apple, and the old wings of Touro College become the cityscape for a semi-crumbling Manhattan. Local eyes, however, may see past the movie-magic veil and recognize the local parks, museums, and streets for what they are: the Hudson Valley’s very own.
And if you can’t see beyond the veil in Big Dogs, rest assured. The Hudson Valley has historically been home to dozens of movies and television shows, from hit horror film A Quiet Place to Amazon Prime’s Upload, and Dana expects the popularity of the area is here to stay.
“Choice Films has made Orange County their home base and are managing Umbra Stages in Newburgh,” she explains. “Filming in Orange County has dramatically increased since 2017. We expect the trend to continue.”