Credit goes to reporter Gretta Hochsprung for spotting a mention on Facebook the other night of the fact that the Showtime series based on the prison escape from Clinton Correctional Facility had been filming in recent days in northern Warren County.
A couple of the people on the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves property acknowledged when I showed up that the operation was 'hush-hush, which is why choosing the remote property on a dead end in Pottersville had worked for a while.
One person on the staff at the caves said they had been told "not to say anything to anybody."
When our city editor, Bob Condon, asked Tuesday night if I wanted to go up north to check it out the following morning, I knew I probably would not be welcome, but always enjoy a good challenge. (Believe it or not, I'm not welcome a lot of places at this stage of my career, including my own home at times.)
So when I drove down Stone Bridge Road around 9 a.m. Wednesday, I wasn't sure whether I would be met with a security checkpoint or some other sort of barrier to keep me off the property.
Trailers and vehicles lined the road near the Stone Bridge and Caves parking lot, and some security staff was apparent. But I just drove in, parked my car, and started walking around.
One thing I learned years ago doing this job is that acting like you belong somewhere can get you pretty far. If I showed up and started asking whether I could go here or there, I would undoubtedly have been shut down immediately.
If there are no posted signs, no yellow tape or anyone telling me not to go somewhere, I just go until someone of official capacity tells me not to. And even then, I have to believe that the person telling me not to has the authority to legally do so.
As I walked around the staging area, marveling at the amount of equipment and number of people involved, many people, including security officers, said good morning to me. With shirt and tie, I looked like I belonged there, at least for a little while.
(Mark Mulholland from our newspartner NewsChannel 13 noted as I did that the sheer amount of people involved in a production like this is impressive.)
I surreptitiously took a few pictures with my phone. No stars were evident, but the direction of vehicles and people gave me a clue as to where I needed to go.
I got a good 100 yards or so west, through the staging area to the tent where meals were served, when I saw a bunch of four-wheelers loading up to head up the trail to Catamount Mountain, past a sign pointing to the "set."
That's where I needed to go to see some action, to try and find producer/director Ben Stiller and/or the stars of the show in action. It's at least a 1.8-mile hike up that mountain, and I wasn't dressed for it in a dress shirt, tie and dress shoes, but when would I again have the chance to try and pull off a visit to a major TV show quietly being filmed in our area?
So I started walking across the trailhead parking lot, when a security officer said hello and asked if I needed help. I mentioned the name of the person who I was told was in charge, her first name was Suk Yi. He offered to take me back the way I came to find her.
Then another security officer who was walking nearby questioned who I was, since I wasn't wearing a nametag like most everyone else.
The gig was up. I acknowledged I was from the local paper, and my free time was over.
Oh, well. I had gotten a bunch of pictures and gotten a lot further than I thought I would. The security officer, a big, affable dude from Brooklyn, escorted me back to my car before he sent a bigwig over to give me their public relations person's contact info.
I guess after I left the security setup changed, as Mulholland said he and his crew were stopped on the road and not allowed to the staging area.
It will be interesting to see the show, "Escape at Dannemora," when it is done, and look for the local landmarks. I would love to know how the producers came to choose the Pottersville attraction. Stone Bridge and Caves owner Greg Beckler said he would talk about it when the filming was done. I would love to hear the rest of the story.
-- Don Lehman