Located 50 miles north of New York City in the picturesque Hudson Valley, Umbra Studios of Newburgh has a 16,000 square foot, fully soundproofed, column-free soundstage with a permanent grid; 6,000 square feet of scenic/construction space; and a 1,500 square foot cyclorama wall. Not to mention 4,000 square feet of office space, wardrobe rooms, green rooms, make-up areas, dressing rooms, a screening room for watching dailies and a growing inventory of in-house lighting equipment. The growth is not over yet; Umbra has another even larger space, 20,000 square foot column free, that’s in the process of being converted.
What inspired Umbra’s visionary owner, Ted Doering, to build such an impressive state of the art production facility in the historic city of Newburgh? Doering, who owns several other properties in the city, including the mammoth Motorcyclepedia Museum— one of the largest museums of antique motorcycles and cycling memorabilia in the world—says he backed into the business. “I was involved in a couple of small shoots at the Motorcyclepedia, and I kept meeting people who live here in the area who work in the film business who were commuting to stages in Brooklyn and Queens. They all started telling me they’d much rather be able to work up here in the Hudson Valley.”
The big move into film came in 2010 when Doering was approached by an indie feature, Return, starring Michael Shannon and Linda Cardinelli. “They were looking for a space to build some sets that could qualify them for the New York State film tax credits,” he recalls. “That’s when we decided to become a New York State Qualified Production Facility.” So he cleared a large warehouse space in a nearby building, had soundproofing, a grid and other amenities installed and by December 2011, Umbra Studios was up and running. Since then, they’ve hosted two indie features (The Brass Teapot and Happy House), Larry the Cable Guy and several large television productions, including Discovery ID for the Discovery channel. Another feature, Mi America, is filming in August, followed by yet another slated to start in September.
Impressive as it may be, it isn’t just the soundstage that brings filmmakers to Umbra. “We have every kind of location a filmmaker could want just outside our doors,” says Mark Gamma, Umbra’s Director of Marketing. “Four centuries of architecture, rivers and lakes, mountains, urban settings, and beautiful farm country are all minutes away. And right here in Newburgh we can duplicate urban neighborhoods like Brooklyn for less cost and more space.”
As an example, Mi America was originally written for Brooklyn but has moved entirely to Newburgh for shooting this summer. “Our script involves a lot of complex locations and characters but we have the small budget of an indie film,” says Mi America producer J. Xavier Velasco. “Robert (writer-director Robert Fontaine Jr.) originally wrote it with Brooklyn in mind, but when he came up to visit Newburgh, he fell in love with the city and realized everything he needed he could find here.” Velasco says another big plus is how welcoming everyone–city officials, private property owners, and of course Umbra’s management team– has been. “Cooperation is great, costs are much lower. It’s been such a good experience we are already developing ideas for the next film we plan to do here.”
Umbra is convenient to New York City, 10 minutes from Metro North’s Beacon station, while the New York State Thruway and I-84 both run directly to Newburgh. “I’ve had people tell me it took them longer to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan than from Manhattan to here,” Gamma says. All things considered, he estimates it takes about an hour and 15 minutes to get to Umbra from the city. “And then you’re here, right in the middle of the scenic Hudson Valley.”