New York Eichler Home Goes Hollywood

House
This simple Eichler home that somehow found itself in New York rather than sunny California will soon be a Hollywood star. This was how it looked back in pre-glitter-and-lights days in 2008. Photo by Dave Weinstein

We’ve seen Eichler homes in automobile ads aplenty and in fashion and other product shoots. Teen songstress Billie Eilish recently motored past Eichler homes in the video for her mega-hit ‘bad guy.’

Eichlers have also been used as settings in several Hollywood feature films, most notably in the touching, moody Jennifer Aniston vehicle, ‘Cake.’

But has an Eichler ever starred in a Hollywood feature film? Not till now, thanks to a film being shot in one of three rare New York Eichler homes. The film apparently will use that home as one of its primary sets.

Eichler homes – and Eichler homeowners – who live in the Southern California tract of Balboa Highlands must be miffed big time. To this point, after all, it has been their hilly neighborhood just a few highway exits from Hollywood Boulevard that has seen more of the benefits and banes that come with camera crews and top end talent.

Roof
Soon after taking possession of their new home, the new owners discovered serious roof leaks, which were repaired as part of the home's renovations for the film. Courtesy of the homeowner

Whatever possessed the makers of the film ‘After Yang’ to opt instead for an Eichler home in the New York City suburbs?

The story of cinema comes to the suburbs was broken by the local Westchester paper, the Journal News, on June 5, after spotting Irish actor Colin Farrell (recent films include ‘True Detective’ and ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them,’ and one favorite is the dark comedy ‘In Bruges’) both in New York City and in Chestnut Ridge, a leafy upstate community where Joe Eichler hoped to build an entire tract – but instead produced a mere three homes.

“Trucks and equipment were spotted in the neighborhood on Wednesday; filming has been ongoing since late May, with mostly night shoots, said a neighbor,” the paper reported.

“According to Variety,” the story went on, “the film, based on a short story by Alexander Weinstein, centers on a father and daughter as they try to save the life of Yang, a robot member of their family.” (Weinstein is no relation to the author of this blog.)

Exactly why the producers and director Kogonada (he goes by a single name) chose an Eichler in New York is not clear, as no one from the film crew responded to queries.

Colin
Colin Farrell. Wikimedia Commons

But the homeowner, who asked that his name not be mentioned, provided some interesting background, though he was constrained by an agreement that prevents him from speaking about the film.

Everything that we write here about the film itself comes from such sources as Variety magazine and IMDB.

When Eichler Network visited the three Eichlers of upstate New York back in 2008 for a neighborhood profile, we found what was in many ways a typical Eichler neighborhood, albeit one that was minuscule and suffered from snowstorms.

The homes were intact and well loved, owned by people who understood the modernist heritage of these homes, and neighbors got along well and socialized often.

One of the homes hit the market in 2016 – and when the current homeowner encountered it, he was floored.

“It was an Eichler home!” he recalls thinking. “I’m in design and in real estate. I did some research. I thought, this can’t be here! On the East Coast? No way!”

“I literally went there the next day. There were people flying in from California to see it. I drove there in a snow storm.”

“Wow, this is unbelievable! This is unreal,” the homeowner recalls thinking. He adds: “They say, don’t buy a house with emotion. It’s an emotional buy.”

But the new owner and his wife, who have a son, experienced other emotions soon after taking possession.

Floor
One of the projects the filmmakers wanted to see in the home was installation of a wooden floor. Courtesy of the homeowner

“It’s been a tough ride. We discovered after we bought it that the roof was in really bad shape. We had 40 different leaks,” he says.

For a time the family rented the home out. Their primary residence is in New York City, where both work and their son goes to school. It was while the house was vacant, after the departure of a tenant, that Hollywood came to call.

The homeowner believes the filmmakers were looking specifically for an Eichler home. Plus, New York State is known for generous tax breaks it offers for film producers. The Journal often reports on films being shot in Hudson Valley counties.

“I got a call. ‘Are you the owner of the Eichler in New York?’ ” the owner recounts. Location scouts and then the director visited, and then negotiations began. Their desires often coincided.

“They wanted us to put in wooden floors. We put in really nice white oak, which is beautiful. There was a wall between the kitchen and dining room that they wanted to remove. We opened it up.”

Other changes were made, including to landscaping, and a tree was planted in the atrium. The producers paid for the work.

Tree
Both the film and the Eichler home take advantage of this newly planted atrium tree. Courtesy of the homeowner

The owner, who works for a firm handling the sourcing of materials for construction, kept a close eye on the work.

“It’s been a blessing, it’s really been a blessing,” he says. “The movie really came at the right time. It saved me from having to come up with $40,000 to replace the roof. They saved the house.”

The producers also asked to get on the roof during the film shoot. “I said no, this is a new roof,” the owner says. “Nobody is climbing on the roof or touching the roof.”

The future of this movie star Eichler is not clear. The lives of the family revolve around New York City. The homeowner thinks he will rent the home out, and may not live there again, much as he loves it.

“I don’t want to sell it, but if somebody really wants to buy it…,” he says, letting the sentence tail off. He adds, “I would love to move there, but there are other issues.”

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