Sam Holdren and Stephen Hanson

Holdren and Hanson. (From left) West Virginia State University alumni Sam Holdren and Stephen Hanson worked on the Locations Department when the popular Netflix show “Stranger Things” filmed in New Mexico last year.


West Virginia State University Alumni Provide Location Work on Popular Netflix Show

Contact: Jack Bailey
(304) 766-4109
June 10, 2022
West Virginia State University Alumni Provide Location Work on Popular Netflix Show

INSTITUTE, W.Va. – Two West Virginia State University (WVSU) alumni already know what happens in the final episodes of season four of Netflix’s popular “Stranger Things.” In fact, Sam Holdren of South Charleston, West Virginia, and Stephen Hanson of Given, West Virginia, have known since last summer when the show finished filming in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they now live.

Holdren earned a Bachelor of Science in Communications in 2001 and a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2002 from WVSU before earning his terminal M.F.A. in Film & Media Arts from Temple University and becoming a professor for WVSU years later. He was an Assistant Location Manager and Hanson, who is a former student of Holdren’s from WVSU, worked as the Key Location Assistant for the New Mexico unit of “Stranger Things” season four. The show is a science fiction horror drama set in the 1980s starring Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown.

“It’s the flagship show for Netflix, so to have ‘Stranger Things’ come to New Mexico for a few months was amazing,” Holdren said. “When the opportunity presented itself, we knew it was the one to get.”

Holdren said he and Hanson were contacted by the Location Manager for the New Mexico unit of “Stranger Things” in early 2020 before the global COVID-19 pandemic took shape. The plan was to begin prepping in March of that year, but of course that didn’t happen. Then the start date was pushed to late fall, and again, didn’t happen because of the pandemic. Cut to spring 2021 and the same Location Manager hired them for an Amazon Prime pilot and a lot of the same crew who worked on that show went on to work on “Stranger Things.” Season four of the show finished filming in New Mexico late August 2021.

“We had to keep our mouths shut since last summer and we were just waiting until it released,” Hanson said. 

Split into two parts, the first seven episodes premiered on Netflix on May 27, 2022, while the final two episodes will debut July 1.

The Locations Department is a vital part of a film production as the leadership is typically the first hired. The team expends during location scouting and prep, and are among the last to finish once filming is complete and the shooting crew moves on. Holdren described the department as a “logistics department with degrees of creative input.” 

“As a craft, we’re still mysterious, sometimes even to our colleagues in other departments” he joked. “The Locations Department finds the filming locations, contracts with location owners, works with government entities, several different vendors, and serves as the ambassadors for the production to the outside world. We work on logistics, safety, and make it so the crew has somewhere to eat lunch or go to the bathroom, even providing the toilet paper sometimes. We work to find our base camps, crew and truck parking, locations for catering. We work with our colleagues in the Transportation Department to work out the logistics for our filming locations. And when it’s all over, we try to leave the locations better than we find them.”

Hanson added that their department focuses on the creature comforts a crew or cast member may need, such as chairs, tables, heaters, food, and hair and makeup stations.

“We also deal with police and security. We do janitorial work. We are the PR person before and during filming. We worry about the filming and road permits,” Hanson said.

 “You have to sell the idea of production to people with complete honesty and understanding, not only to get permission to film in or near their homes or businesses, but also to make sure the temporary disruption is worth their time,” Holdren said.

Though their work for the current season of “Stranger Things” is finished, the duo is currently working Locations on a feature film called “Love Lies Bleeding.” The romantic thriller stars Kristen Stewart and is currently in pre-production. They will be working on this movie through August.

To read the full feature article about Holdren and Hanson, go here.

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West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multi-generational institution, located in Institute, West Virginia.. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service, and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research.
- WVSU –
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