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What you need to know for 08/20/2017

Maisie Williams puts on new face for movie filmed in Albany

Maisie Williams puts on new face for movie filmed in Albany

Several scenes shot for 'Departures'
Maisie Williams puts on new face for movie filmed in Albany
Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark in HBO's "Game of Thrones," films a movie at Albany International Airport.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

Sword and sorcery fans won't see Maisie Williams until July 16.

That's the night Williams' spunky Arya Stark — along with kings, queens, knights, zombies, dragons, schemers and louts — returns for the seventh season of HBO's world-famous "Game of Thrones."

Airline passengers and members of the media saw Williams in action Wednesday. The 20-year-old British actress filmed several scenes for the upcoming movie "Departures" at Albany International Airport.

While nobody knows what will happen to Stark in the sprawling and generally sinister "Thrones" storyline, where beloved characters — and characters not so beloved — are beheaded, stabbed, blown up, squashed, incinerated and poisoned, the "Departures" script has given Williams a chance to prepare for a noble finale. She plays Skye, a teenager with a terminal illness, who befriends Calvin, a 19-year-old who is afraid of everything.

In the movie, Calvin helps Skye carry out eccentric tasks on a bucket list that Skye wants to complete before she dies.

Actors and actresses, directed by Rhinebeck's Peter Hutchings, were at the airport's second-floor food court Wednesday afternoon, just in front of a Starbucks coffee shop.

Williams, often dressed in peasant clothes with her slender sword "Needle" for "Thrones," wore a black, pink and white plaid sweater, blue jumper, black stockings and boot-high, black Converse Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers for her part. Her hair was jet black on top and light violet and long on the sides.

The actors in the scene, surrounded by men and women in shorts, T-shirts, ball caps and electronic gear hanging from belts, were around a golf cart-style airport transport. Williams stood outside the cart, said something to the actor driving the rig and then darted over to lounge chairs near a wall full of windows. She retrieved a paper, walked back to the cart, jumped into the passenger side and began reading the paper — which was snatched away by her driver.

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"Let's do it again," said an assistant director, a man dressed in blue jeans, a black T-shirt and a Boston Red Sox ball cap.

"Re-setting." "Roll sound." "Roll camera." "Action."

The scene was repeated several times, with people walking to and from airliners pausing for a few moments to watch the crew at work. Signs were around that alerted people that "Departures" was being filmed. "If you enter this area, it is possible you will appear recognizably in the film," read part of the message.

Some people asked reporters what was going on. A few airport visitors took photos with their cellphones; crew members quickly asked them to stop.

About 12:30 p.m., the actors moved to another location — an airport baggage room. "Let's only take the equipment we need," the assistant director said. Williams and other members of the acting troupe did not pause for a brief news conference. They were off to the next set, working all day.

Hutchings said the "Departures" crew has been at the airport since Monday, and will complete a four-day shoot Thursday. The actors were on the tarmac Tuesday, exiting a "North Star Airways" plane (movie fans know movie airliners are almost always fictitious).

Debby Goedeke, the Albany film commissioner for Film Albany — a division of the Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau — helped set up the airport's close-up. She knows Hutchings' mother, Amy Hutchings.

"I know her from working on other projects," Goedeke said. "She had reached out and said, "Hey, my son's putting a movie together, he needs an airport location.' And I said we have the airport for you."

The crew got more than just the food court. Some scenes were set in places where only members of the Transportation Security Administration are allowed. "All that had to be cleared through Washington, multiple layers, to be able to get that through," Goedeke said.

Goedeke added that visiting film crews always mean economic benefits for cities.

"They need sleeping rooms, they need meals, they need catering," she said. "They need location fees, they may need permits, exterior locations. If you're closing down streets, then we have the police department, fire department and city clerk's office involved. All of that adds up."

John O'Donnell, chief executive officer of the Albany County Airport Authority, took a photo with Williams and other crew members. He was on crutches, recovering from recent knee surgery.

"It's a real opportunity for us to showcase Albany International Airport to the entire world," O'Donnell said. "It's been a great experience. The film crew has worked very well with us."

Hutchings, in brief comments to the media, was glad he could stay close to home for part of his movie.

"It takes a lot of work and a lot of people to get one of these going and the airport is a big centerpiece of the movie," he said. "We really wanted to make sure to get it right and the support we've had from beginning to end ... it's just been an absolute dream."

The state's film tax credit program, available to many film productions, was another advantage.

Airport spokesman Doug Myers said passengers have enjoyed glimpses of Hollywood-style movie magic. The airport has not had to change normal operations.

"We had to dismantle the PA system, shut it off while they shoot, and it goes right back on, we're in radio contact with the people upstairs," Myers said. "It goes down for 15 seconds and comes back up. There's a program for any kind of airport emergency, it goes right on immediately and that takes precedence over anything they're shooting."

Williams was not available to answer any questions about the upcoming "Game of Thrones" season, which will offer only seven episodes instead of the usual 10. But actors, writers and producers of the series are generally tight-lipped about what will happen as armies once again clash and dragons fly.  

Arya Stark — who graduated to assassin last season — has mastered the mystic art of disguise. So if Williams decides to tour Albany sometime Thursday ... people might not even recognize her.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124, at wilkin@dailygazette.com or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter.

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