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Lights! Camera! SEPTA!

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Press Officer

There's a new Hollywood star on the scene and you can catch the latest performance in the action flick SAFE, now playing in theaters. No, not leading man Jason Statham... it's SEPTA. Yes, the Authority's Broad Street Line stands in for the New York City subway and plays a pivotal role in the movie.

Scenes using the Broad Street Line were filmed at SEPTA's Fern Rock shop over a two week period in November 2010. Steve Cook, who was assistant director of maintenance at Fern Rock at the time of the shoot, was heavily involved in the planning process. He met with director Boaz Yakin, producer Lawrence Bender, director of cinematography Stefan Czapsky, stunt coordinators and some of the stuntmen to plot the logistics of filming in the facility and on the subway car. This included using a "green screen" so that background footage could be added later in the production.

"One of the things they liked about the Fern Rock facility was the size of the open, covered space they had to work with inside the building," said Cook. "Although the movie is set in New York, they also liked that the Broad Street cars have a similar body structure of those used in New York which allowed them to film some scenes in New York and some while on location in Philadelphia."

In addition to working with the film crew, Cook had to coordinate with other departments within SEPTA to ensure the necessary staff members were on hand so that the production went smoothly, without interfering with the Authority's regular revenue service and maintenance projects.

SAFE isn't the only recent on-camera cameo by SEPTA properties and vehicles. Philadelphia-area native Bradley Cooper filmed a sequence of his 2011 movie Limitless in a section of Walnut-Locust Station on the Broad Street Line and the cast of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia tried to catch a SEPTA trolley in a recent episode of the FX hit show. Sometimes SEPTA employees are also featured in the production. Earlier this year, operator Garry Mason told the Delaware Valley "There's always a Dunkin' on my route" as part of a Dunkin' Donuts "Hey Philly, what are you drinkin'?" TV campaign.

Not all projects are as extensive as SAFE - some filming sessions last a few hours, others a couple of days. But all create national and international exposure for SEPTA and generate revenue for the Authority through location and commercial filming vehicle charter fees. In the last year-and-a-half, SEPTA has earned almost $49,600 through movie and television contracts, which are arranged through the Media Relations Department.

"It's wonderful that more production companies are realizing that the Philadelphia region is a great place to film their movies and shows and SEPTA is thrilled to be able to offer our vehicles and facilities," said General Manager Joe Casey. "The projects provide our staff with a fun way to showcase their work and talents outside of their everyday routines while bringing in money for the Authority."

Philadelphia-based productions are coordinated through the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, headed by Executive Director Sharon Pinkenson. The Film Office staff knows that if a film or TV calls for public transportation, SEPTA will be ready to step in.

"The partnership between the Greater Philadelphia Film Office and SEPTA has been incredibly successful," said Pinkenson. "We've worked together on dozens of productions over the years that have had various requests and requirements. Time and again the amazing SEPTA team has managed to pull off miracles. As a result, Philadelphia's reputation amongst filmmakers has benefited. If filmmakers need to shoot a scene on public transportation, they call us first because they know that we deliver every time. So Southeastern PA is sought out regularly for scenes needing commuter and elevated trains, modern and period stations, subways and busses. No matter where the story is set, we're able to lure the work here, including the jobs and economic stimulus. Now that's a reputation worth celebrating!"

Jason Statham shoots a SAFE scene on top of a Broad Street Line car. The green screen helps create "movie magic".

It's Always Sunny cast members (from left) Danny DeVito, Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson run to catch a SEPTA trolley.

(From left) SEPTA Press Officer Heather Redfern, Film Office Executive Director Sharon Pinkenson and Film Office Production Coordinator Erin Jackson discuss upcoming projects.

Operator Garry Mason gets ready for his close-up.

Crews from around the world have chosen to film on SEPTA vehicles. This production is for a Japanese TV show.