The Berkshire rolling hills, quaint architecture, and history of visual and performing arts make it especially cinematic, which is why there has been quite a history of films made in the county. During your next stay, schedule a film voyage from northern to southern Berkshire County to see the shooting locations of some of your favorite films.
Begin your journey in Williamstown on the Williams College campus, the setting for two films. A CHANGE OF SEASONS (1980) starred Anthony Hopkins, Bo Derek and Shirley MacLaine. The screenplay for THE HUMAN STAIN (2000) was based on the acclaimed novel by Philip Roth and was set at fictional “Athena College,” described as a liberal arts institution in the Berkshires. This movie too starred Anthony Hopkins, along with Nicole Kidman. Filming also took place at the Post Office on Spring Street.
Continue your travel south to Ventfort Hall in Lenox. This Gilded Age Museum, typically known as the summer cottage built for the Morgan family in the late 1800’s, also served as the exterior for St. Cloud’s Orphanage in the Academy Award winning movie, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (1999). Several scenes were filmed on the grandiose staircase in the Great Hall as well. Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron starred.
Feeling hungry? Head down to Theresa’s Stockbridge Café, formerly known as Alice’s Restaurant, made famous by Arlo Guthrie’s lyrics “you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant”. This song inspired the movie and filming for ALICE’S RESTAURANT (1969) which was done at Theresa’s. The Alice, who cooked at her restaurant, would make breakfast for the film’s cast and crew around 5:00 – 6:00am every morning after they were working all night on a show change at the Stockbridge Playhouse. Today Alice no longer is the cook, but the food here is still delicious – the menu offers a variety of sandwiches, salads, pizzas and pasta.
Next head to Main Street in Lee – This area served as the shooting location for the film BEFORE AND AFTER (1996) starring Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson. The barn space at Stonover Farm was the “sound stage” for the film, and now the property has transformed into a gorgeous bed and breakfast – the perfect place to rest your head after a tiring day of film touring.
In the town of Lenox in the mid 1990’s resided one of the film industry’s biggest full-service visual effects companies, MASS.ILLUSION. Over 200 people worked there, and like many before, the Berkshires sparked creativity and inspiration for them. The visual effects for films including JUDGE DREDD (1995), WHAT DREAMS MAY COME (1998), and THE MATRIX (1999), were done at MASS.ILLUSIONS in Lenox, and provided some of the most groundbreaking work in the history of the visual effects industry. Both WHAT DREAMS MAY COME and THE MATRIX won the Academy award for Best Visual Effects in 1999 and 2000.
MASS.ILLUSION eventually moved its facilities to California, but many of the New York City and Los Angeles transplants remain in the Berkshires today. One of them, Dai Ban, has transformed his model making abilities into sculpting beautiful pieces of art and jewelry. Find the perfect piece of his work to remind you of your Berkshire film tour at stores throughout the Berkshires: Seeds in Great Barrington, Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, and MASS MoCA in North Adams.
Has all of this sightseeing sparked you to finally turn your screenplay into a film? If you would like to bring your project to the Berkshires, The Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative [BFMC] is a great resource to assist and help you make that happen.
Learn more about BFMC and the history of Berkshire filmmaking by visiting www.berkshirefilm.com.