DECD: The Family Stone

Film Division

The Family Stone








            It was director Thomas Bezucha’s cinematic dream home:  an 1860s white Italianate-style house with black shutters and a wrap-around columned porch – capped by twin chimneys and a large decorative cupola.

The perfect setting for his current holiday film, “The Family Stone,” due for release in Connecticut on Dec. 16, the historic gem is a private residence in Greenwich, Conn.  Bezucha and an all-star cast spent less than a week there in late February/early March 2005, but those few days proved absolutely magical for the production, according to the movie’s executive producer, Jennifer Ogden.

           As Ogden explained, Bezucha’s location scout “really scoured the tri-state area” of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to find the right mix of elements in terms of house, neighborhood and town.

           “We found the perfect place in Greenwich,” she said.  “We looked at a lot of houses and this was our first choice.  We fell madly in love with it. For Thomas, the home was as much a character in the movie as the people themselves because it represented where the parents raised their family.  And this movie is all about family.  So the house was integral to the overall production.”

In fact, “The Family Stone” is the story of family life in a university town at Christmas time and the disruption of that bucolic existence.  Son Everett Stone (played by Dermot Mulroney of “About Schmidt”) brings his girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker of “Sex and the City”) home to meet his parents (Craig T. Nelson of “The Incredibles” and Diane Keaton of “Something’s Gotta Give”) and various siblings (Claire Danes of “Romeo and Juliet,” Rachel McAdams of “The Notebook” and Luke Wilson of “Old School”), upsetting the natural balance. 

         Not only did the house lend itself to the successful execution of this story, its immediate surroundings, the town of Greenwich, the Film Division of the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism and Mother Nature all conspired to complete the picture – literally and figuratively, indicated Ogden.

“Our shoot in Connecticut provided a very, very good beginning to the project; it set the tone for the entire movie,” she stated.  “While we were filming, it snowed three times… major storms, one of which was a nor’easter, and the result was spectacular.  Our cinematographer was thrilled with the production value – the quality of light – that gave us.  It was totally unexpected and would have been extremely difficult to duplicate in the studio. 

“The community was great, as well,” Ogden continued.  “We tried very hard to address their concerns beforehand, to show respect for the neighbors and include them in the process.  We had to shoot several scenes at night, which meant running generators and lights and generally disrupting schedules.  But everyone in the neighborhood was wonderful.  They showed a lot of interest, and seemed to enjoy the process.  And the cast responded by going out to meet them.  Everyone had fun.  It was great.”

Of equal import was the studio’s positive experience with the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism’s (CCT) Film Division, which paved the way for Twentieth Century Fox to film in the state. “The Film Division staff was very supportive, and helped us navigate smoothly through the permit and contract process,” reported John Fedynich, “The Family StoneConnecticut location manager, who worked with the CCT for about two months. 

“They suggested names of local people for snow removal in Greenwich, and opened up the right doors so we could talk to residents when we needed to decorate their houses for ‘Christmas’ and place klieg lights and various equipment on their properties.”

Also, said Fedynich, “The staff was instrumental in providing whatever information we needed regarding city and government agencies to move the production forward.”

            He added, “It was definitely beneficial to have a dedicated government agency working in partnership with us and serving as a liaison with other government agencies.  Plus, the Film Division was highly accessible and communicated with us very well.  We were able to call or email a request and always received an immediate response.”

Fedynich, who is accustomed to working with state film commissions within the tri-state area, expressed sincere appreciation for the guidance supplied by the commissions in general and the CCT’s Film Division, in particular.

 “Any time I work outside of New York City, I rely on the experience of these commissions to help me through the process.  It’s important to be able to contact them and ask: ‘How can you help us?  Tell us what we can and cannot do.’  This makes our job much

easier.  The Family Stone’ was my first experience working with Connecticut’s Commission and it was a very, very positive one for me.”

            “We would definitely shoot in Connecticut again,” Ogden declared.  “The production value we achieved is unbeatable and we had an outstanding experience… from the Film Division  to the Greenwich police and fire departments.  We have a very big soft spot for our Connecticut shoot; we had a blast!”

These words are sweet music to Governor M. Jodi Rell, who said, “Feature-length films represent an important means of fueling Connecticut’s economy.  We’re seeing the highest quality, feature-length movies being shot here now, and our film industry is ripe for expansion.” 

“An increasing number of producers are selecting Connecticut as their ideal base for feature-length films,” observed Jennifer Aniskovich, CCT executive director.  “They’ve come to recognize the level of production talent available in the state, as well as the excellent facilities that lie in relatively close proximity to Manhattan.  And Connecticut is well equipped to respond to the growing demand from major studios.  We were successful recently in accommodating ‘War of the Worlds,’ as well as ‘Yours, Mine and Ours,’ [in the latter, all scenes shot in Connecticut unfortunately ended up on the editing room floor] and we’re prepared to meet the needs of similar films in the future.”

She went on to note that what began a few years ago as a limited number of low-key productions has mushroomed into a full-blown industry within Connecticut.  This includes the creation of jobs.

            According to Ogden, “The Family Stone” utilized tri-state area-based union crews – some of whom were Connecticut residents.  This is another plus for movie making in Aniskovich’s estimation, as it enhances the state’s economic vitality.  And another reason for Ogden and Twentieth Century Fox to love Connecticut:  the studio saved money.

            Concluded Ogden, “I have to say that in 30-plus years of film production, ‘The Family  Stone’  is one of my top three favorite movies.  It has a marvelous script and cast, a great production crew, and it’s beautifully shot.  I think the people of Greenwich and Connecticut will be very pleased to see how beautifully their homes, their town and their community look on film.”

The Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism brings together tourism, film, history and the arts.  Its mission is to preserve and promote Connecticut’s cultural and tourism assets in order to enhance the quality of life and economic vitality of the state.  The Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism is located at One Financial Plaza, 755 Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut, 06103.





Content Last Modified on 12/19/2005 12:29:07 PM