Lights, camera, (no) action? A photographer’s account of trying to get on a Netflix set


The statue in the Mellon courtyard stands in front of some pieces of the Netflix set left outside. Photo Credit: Lilly Kubit.

Lilly Kubit

For the past month, Netflix has taken over Chatham University’s campus while filming “The Chair’’.  The show features Sandra Oh, along with Jay Duplass and a crew of other successful actors. 

Despite how prevalent the cast and crew have been on campus — many students even snapped zoomed-in pictures and videos of Oh in her winter attire filming some scenes outdoors — the process to get access to a Netflix set is quite tedious. Believe me, I tried.

I present to you Lilly’s less-than-adventurous attempt at accessing a Netflix set!

Attempt 1: See if I could be an extra. I read through the requirements sent out to Chatham students regarding signing up to be an extra. As someone who has three jobs, I was automatically disqualified.

Attempt 2: I contemplated sneaking on set and risking getting in trouble. Maybe I could sneak into Mellon Hall, where most of the filming was taking place, through the commuter lounge? The anxiety of getting caught and being banned from even getting interviews deterred me from taking this route. Instead, I took pictures of the sets around campus when there were no crew members around to yell at me.

Attempt 3: Try to make connections with people up the chain of command. I have a job at Chatham where I photograph on-campus events. I emailed my supervisor, who emailed her supervisor, who said it wasn’t possible for me to get access because the set was closed due to the pandemic. 

Final Attempt: This one got me the farthest. The email about the Netflix shoot that was sent to Chatham’s student body came from Walter Fowler, senior vice president of finance and administration. I decided to reach out to him to see if he could connect me with Netflix. He responded promptly and connected me with the location manager for “The Chair.” We exchanged an email or two, and then no updates for 12 days. (I was tempted to send another email, but I didn’t want to seem too overbearing.) 

On that 12th day, though, I got a response. I was approved to have access to the set! But only to those the location manager connected me with. I responded with my (albeit ambitious!) request to take photos in Mellon of the filming process and talk to Oh and a camera crew member. 

While this all sounded wonderful, I regret to share that as of the night I am writing this story — five days after sending my latest request — I still haven’t heard back yet from the location manager. 

Being a college student who’s longest deadline is an essay for a class, I did not come into this experience expecting this much downtime between emails and requests. Maybe I should’ve been more persistent? But I don’t think hounding anyone with emails would change anything. Big companies like Netflix have multiple chains of command that requests like mine must go through, and the restrictions in place due to COVID-19 just exasperated the long waiting times.

Maybe I would’ve had more success at least with getting photos if I had just snuck through the commuter lounge? But I would have never secured an interview this way — and my request is still pending, so there’s a chance I may actually get on set. 

Despite how prevalent Netflix’s presence has been on campus, it’s tough to get close to the action.

Story Update March 4– Netflix’s production crew has moved off of Chatham’s campus and I never got a response regarding filming on campus, but I did get to watch Sandra Oh film a scene on the Mellon Courtyard!