Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons will play host to Amazon film crews next week, teaching students virtually for a week while the school is used as a film set.
All students at the school will learn remotely the week of Sept. 28 as the school rents out its space to the Amazon production team that has been filming the anthology series “Modern Love” around the Capital Region.
An Amazon production scout reached out to the school in August and after multiple visits from scouts, directors and producers, the show’s team negotiated a contract with the Albany Diocese, which owns the building.
While visiting the school, production leaders indicated the building’s architecture and intimate space fit what the crews need for the episode.
“They all commented on our architecture and our space was exactly what they are looking for,” said Mickie Baldwin, the school’s director of development and a former Bishop Gibbons student and parent. “It was very nostalgic for several of them to go back into a building that looked like their high schools.”
Baldwin, who helped work out the logistics of the filming, and a small number of other school staff will be on hand to assist the film crews. She said the film crews plan to remove Bishop Gibbons signage – including championship banners – and replace with their own props; set designers have already visited the school to take measurements, Baldwin said.
“You can think of it as a blank slate,” she said, noting the school was completed in 1958. “When students and families leave on Friday, it will look exactly the same when they come back.”
The film crews will also host their own cleaning and catering services to feed the production team and disinfect the building throughout, along with other COVID-19 precautions.
Bishop Gibbons Principal Kiante Jones, in a letter to parents and students, said Amazon offered the school a “significant financial incentive” to rent out the building and that the money would be used to bolster the school’s programs. Jones, in an interview, also said closing the school to students and most staff would provide an opportunity to test the district’s virtual education infrastructure and prepare for a possible shift to all virtual learning because of a spike in COVID cases or other unforeseen circumstance.
The school, which has been streaming classes to a small number of remote students so far this year, will use Microsoft Teams to host its virtual classes. When school restarts Sept. 28, all students will be expected to log in for their regular schedule of classes, starting at 8:15 a.m. and wrapping up just before 2:45 p.m. each day.
“It allows us to test Microsoft teams and our new virtual-learning model before there is an emergency or a need to unexpectedly close, not knowing what the fall is going to be,” Jones said.
Jones said the financial benefit of the agreement with Amazon will bolster the school’s finances during a time when Catholic schools are looking for new ways to raise money.
“For Catholic schools, they are always looking for financial viability for the future, so projects like this go a long way to supporting the budget,” Jones said. “What was important to me was that the students didn’t lose any class time and using the technology we can assure the students aren’t losing out.”
Jones and Baldwin both said the unique circumstances of the pandemic and the school’s ability to support a week of virtual learning enabled the district to pursue the agreement with Amazon, something that would likely have been difficult in a previous year.
“Many have said this is a great opportunity for the school, many have said they are looking forward to when this is aired so they can see the school and building they love so much,” Jones said of the reaction to news of the agreement. “I think it will be interesting and it will be one of those things that’s always remembered about the Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons campus.”
Baldwin, who went to Bishop Gibbons as a student and has a 40-year history with the school, said it will be neat to see the school building that has long played a major role in her life take on a new chapter in its life.
“I am super excited. Being at Gibbons impacted every aspect of my life, the choices I made, the people I am friends with now… so to our space immortalized in a way is going to be incredible, kind of like watching your kid get married. It’s a big step for all of us,” she said.