A film maker who used Western New York to shoot a holiday-themed movie, and then later a mystery-thriller, is once again in the Buffalo area to shoot some holiday spirit.
Fred Olen Ray and his crew, which includes more than 20 local hires, are currently filming scenes for the upcoming Christmas movie, "The Apprentice." Although the story is set in New York City and in Vermont, Ray is using locations in Buffalo, Ellicottville and East Aurora.
Ray came to Western New York in early 2015 to shoot another Christmas production, "A Prince For Christmas," then returned later in the year to film a thriller, "The Trial." He made clear during a one-on-one interview with WBFO that he has become quite fond of the region.
Western New Yorkers, he said, have been very welcoming and supportive.
"The cooperation, the people here, the businesses here, the municipalities , the mayor's office, the police chief's office and especially the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission, those guys have just been great," Ray said. "They make us feel very special every time we come here."
Ray's latest production, "The Apprentice," is about a struggling small town business in danger of being closed but when corporate bigwigs arrive, they decide instead to help save the small shop.
The cast includes Howard Hesseman, Abigail Hawk, David O'Donnell and Zack Ward. Ward, a native of Toronto, is best known for his role as the bully Scut Farkas in the popular 1983 holiday film "A Christmas Story." Some of that film's scenes were shot in Cleveland. Ward was asked about his thoughts of fellow Rust Belt town Buffalo as a location.
He was most impressed by the reuse of older buildings.
"It's fantastic," Ward said. "I'm kind of jealous. Over in L.A. you have a lot of stucco. You don't get this resurgence of taking the great architectural value of the old buildings and making them usable. Over there you have strip malls."
Ward added that he even enjoyed a little cold weather. Ray, meanwhile, gave Buffalo good marks for something he feels the city offers.
"The one thing that jumps out at people is the great restaurants in Buffalo that you wouldn't think of," Ray said. "A lot of people don't think of Buffalo past the Buffalo Bills. But when you come here you realize that the restaurants are really epicurean. That's just an amazing assortment of great places and it's a beautiful city."
Ray and his crew are expected to complete shooting of "The Apprentice" by the end of March. It seems it won't be his last visit to Western New York.
"I'm going to take my day off, like I did last time, and have the Film Commission show me new locations I haven't seen before," Ray said. "And it's my intention to go back home and make another story that would fit into this location."