Noah Baumbach to Film Part of Movie Featuring Greta Gerwig, Adam Driver in Oberlin

Academy Award-nominated director Noah Baumbach will film part of his upcoming movie White Noise in Oberlin between July 15 and 17. The film, starring Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig, is set to be shot on parts of Forest and Cedar Streets. The film is planned for release in 2022.

While most of the filming will take place in Hiram, Ohio, several days of filming will take place in Oberlin and the nearby town of Wellington.

It is not clear why the location scout, Bill Garvey, chose Oberlin for the film — though the movie is based on Don DeLillo’s novel by the same name which takes place at a small Midwestern liberal arts college. That said, this isn’t the first time Oberlin has hosted a feature film: the movies All the Bright Places and Take Shelter — as well as an unaired TV pilot starring Channing Tatum — were all shot in Oberlin. 

“I mean, we’ve had other movies filmed here before,” Director of Planning and Development at the City of Oberlin Carrie Handy said. “I don’t know if they were already aware of the location. We used to be on a list that the state had of good filming locations, but I don’t even know if the state’s gives out information like that anymore.”

Despite the minor disruptions that filming will cause in residential areas, local residents and college students alike are excited to welcome the crew to town, and rumors about potential Adam Driver sightings have circulated for weeks.  

“The reaction that I’m getting is people are looking forward to it — I think they’re curious about it,” Oberlin City Manager Rob Hillard said. “This doesn’t happen every day in our town, so I think they’re curious and again, looking forward to the filming in their own individualized way.

College third-year and Cinema Studies major Sam Blieden is a Baumbach fan and is excited that White Noise will be filming in Oberlin. Last spring Blieden wrote an article for The Grape titled “Noah Baumbach, It’s time for Oberlin to shine” calling for Baumbach to film at Oberlin.

“I was like, hold up, this guy shot at Sarah Lawrence, Bard, Vassar, Occidental,” Blieden said. “Then I wrote a Grape article for Bad Habits being like [feature Oberlin] … and then they are shooting in Oberlin!”

Blieden says she thinks Oberlin’s Midwestern identity is a good match for Blacksmith, the fictional college town where White Noise takes place, which probably explains why the producers chose to film in Oberlin.

“I think it’s a great place to shoot also probably for tax purposes and everything is a lot cheaper than shooting in like New York City,” Blieden said. “I mean, it wouldn’t make sense for the book to shoot in New York City or upstate New York. It’s a Midwestern place.” 

An additional draw might have been that Ohio offers a generous 30 percent refundable Motion Picture Tax Credit on the cost of production and cast wages.

The film follows Jack Gladney, played by Driver, a Hitler Studies professor as he deals with the challenges of family life. Like many of Baumbach’s movies — such as Squid and the Whale, Marriage Story, and Meyerowitz Stories — White Noise will explore themes of family dysfunction and work-life balance. 

“I think he’s just one of the most prominent, distinct voices of the 21st century, and I really just enjoy how he writes his characters,” Blieden said. “I think he gets really good actors to be in them, like … big names, but also just like really strong actors in general. It’s good, modern cinema.” 

The film will bring a large production crew to Oberlin this summer, which Handy believes will be an economic boost to the town and showcase Oberlin’s unique character.

“I think it’s great that they did choose Oberlin,” Handy said. “It gives Oberlin some recognition probably nationally, and it is exciting that they’re going to bring in about 100 people here with them, so hopefully they’ll spend some money here and enjoy Oberlin and maybe come back later.”

During filming, two residential streets will be blocked off to traffic and the general public. The film has also applied for a building permit to create a small structure in the area. 

“For the most part, it looks like they’re going to have police to control in and out,” Handy said. “They might not be blocked all the time and [the permit] says they will allow homeowners, ingress and egress. The sidewalks could also be intermittently blocked for filming.”

Hillard encourages residents to not to inundate the areas during these days in order to allow the actors and production crew to do their jobs with minimal interruption. 

“[We ask for] sensitivity to the amount of people in that general area, so we encourage people to stay away just as a function of making sure that it goes smoothly,” Hillard said. “I will say though that there will be a helicopter from 6:00 p.m. to midnight on the 16th that will do some filming as well. So that will create a presence in town during that time.”

Despite the need for Oberlin residents to maintain some distance from the set, its presence will still be palpable in town, especially for those looking for it. For Blieden, the mere knowledge of the film’s proximity to her home satisfies a couple of dreams, but she is disappointed she will not be able to work on the set. 

“It’s a director I like, a book I love — like that’s the whole thing — It’s like a Baumbach movie would be cool, but it’s also a book that’s one of my favorite books,” Blieden said. “And for it to be literally like a block away … for it to be that close to me … I might not be able to work in it, but kind of still get to witness how it all works.”