January 22, 2022

Actor William Fichtner returns to community where he filmed movie

Cortland’s spot on the big screen

Shenandoah Briere/staff reporter

Actor William Fichtner gives opening remarks Wednesday before a screening of his film “Cold Brook” at SUNY Cortland. Fichtner produced some of the scenes in the film on campus.

Liam Mackey, 11, sat in his seat smile across his face. He was ready to see the movie “Cold Brook” and maybe meet actor William Fichtner after the showing.

“The movie filmed near my house,” he said. “I thought it was super cool.”

Liam said he remembered seeing people moving props around in 2017 as the crew prepared for a scene on Cold Brook Road in Scott – the road and brook the movie is named after.

Wednesday night, two years after scenes of the movie was filmed in Scott and on the SUNY Cortland campus, Fichtner returned to campus and screened the film to a filled Brown Auditorium.

It was a promise Fichtner had made to college President Erik Bitterbaum and intended to keep. Liam and his father Pat Mackey said they enjoyed the movie. Liam was especially happy recognizing all the spots from Cortland and his neighborhood.

Where to see it

“Cold Brook” will be released Nov. 8 in select theaters across the nation and then video-released, but the platform hasn’t been announced yet.

“It was excellent,” Mackey said.

The movie is about friendship, Fichtner said earlier in the day. It’s about his 40-year friendship with the Contento family, who live on Cold Brook Road and have a cabin on their property that was used as inspiration in the movie.

“They’re some of my oldest friends in the world,” Fichtner said, sitting in casual clothes in front of a window at the college’s Alumni House on Tompkins Street.

It’s also about his friendship with actor Kim Coates, who Fichtner met in Moracco when he was filming “Black- hawk Down” in 2001 and later realized they lived 12 minutes from each other.

“There’s a beautiful shorthand between close friends,” Fichtner said. “We wrote it with that in mind.”

When Fichtner found the funding and decided to film the movie, he knew he had to do some of it in Cortland — other parts were filmed in his hometown of Buffalo.

“The story was always set in Cortland,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite places in all of New York state.”

While it can be hard to find funding to shoot an indie film in more than one location, Fichtner said: “It didn’t matter, I knew no matter what I had to shoot some of it in Cortland.”

He noted interior portions of a movie — living rooms and bedrooms — can be shot anywhere, but not exteriors. Cortland had a lot to offer.

Fichtner recalled visiting the area many times and loving the rolling hills. He especially loved the road near Brockway Hall, which dips and disappears and then re-emerges into a “beautiful hillside.” He knew then he had to film on campus, too.

“It may sound like a simple thing, but for a film it makes a difference,” he said.

However, the road could have been a difficult scene to shoot. Fichtner visited the campus two weeks before filming was set to take place in Buffalo and several weeks before he’d come to SUNY Cortland to film. He was surprised to see the road he had planned to film on was under construction.

“I thought ‘Oh my go we can’t shoot on this, you can’t even drive on this,’” he said.

However, by the time he came to film the road was paved and the crosswalks were painted. He’s not sure what calls Bitterbaum made to get things done, but he’s grateful.

“I didn’t want to cheat anything for the beauty of this area,” he said.

The movie would eventually wrap and editing would be finished a few month later, but Fichtner did not show the film — rather for 32 days he watched it, taking notes, 56 in fact. He went to his wife and said he needed to do a little more work on it, knowing it would take some extra money and his wife agreed.

After the showing Wednesday, Fichtner got a standing ovation.

Fichtner left the rolling hills of Cortland County this morning and is off to SUNY Farmingdale, one of his alma maters, to show the movie to students and faculty there.

“I’m excited,” he said.