Mercyhurst communication student works on set of 'The Underground Railroad'


When an indie film company rolled into Erie for a week in late September, they didn't just stop by Mercyhurst University to shoot a couple scenes, they invited senior communication major Daniel Tarr to join the production team.

For an aspiring writer/director, working on the set of The Underground Railroad, a Grant Larson Production, was an experience Tarr will always remember.

“I will never forget this,” said Tarr. “After all my years of working on student films, I've finally been able to work my way up to a legitimate picture. It was a great feeling to get a glimpse into my dream.”

Joining the staff for two days as a production assistant, Tarr did whatever was asked of him, including food and coffee pick-ups. He also had the opportunity to play director — even if only for a few minutes — by calling “action” and “cut” for the first time on a film set.

Despite only spending a short time behind the scenes, Tarr appreciates the amount of hard work that goes into a film, even a low-budget one.

“Putting together a film takes a lot of time and effort; you need a pretty large group to put it all together,” he said, adding that both the crew and cast were great to work with. “It definitely takes a lot of people who are committed to a joint vision.”

As a sophomore, Tarr worked on Cheering Up Dewie written by Joe Chiodo '13 and Brady Greenwalt '13 and directed by Matt Teleha '13. As a junior, he staffed Caitlin Macbride's '13 film 100. Both films were selected as first-place winners in the Communication Department Script Writing contest.

In his pursuit of filmmaking post-graduation, Tarr is hoping to land a job at a radio or TV station to add some professional experience to his resume. He has a good start — Tarr's experience on campus ranges from acting as student manager of Laker TV, a features editor for The Merciad and the president of the student national broadcasting society. Currently, Tarr is concentrating his major in new media and strategic communication.

“Mercyhurst, and my professors, have always given me a push to pursue these experiences,” said Tarr. “Honestly, I'm glad I did.”

The Underground Railroad, written and directed by Tom Fox Davies, is described by the production company as a “high pace adventure with an uplifting sprinkling of comedy throughout.” The film’s main character is a law student named Sam who finds herself in a tough situation despite her typical “faultless decision making.” Sam ends up retracing the journey for freedom that many courageously took during a defining moment in American history.

Filming incorporated different venues in Erie, including a warehouse on West 21st Street, the Erie Art Museum, inside a house near East 2nd Street and at Presque Isle. Filming lasted from September 17-28.

For more information about Grant Larson Productions or The Underground Railroad, visit


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