Portrait of Tom Fontana

Q&A with Tom Fontana as He Prepares to Film New Project with Buffalo State Students


This weekend, Emmy Award–winning writer/producer Tom Fontana, ’73, returns to Buffalo for one week to film his new script, The Wrong Road. The production crew largely comprises students in the television and film arts program (TFA) at Buffalo State University.

One of Buffalo State’s most acclaimed alumni, Fontana is the creative force behind such blockbuster series as Borgia, Copper, Oz, and Homicide: Life on the Street. The Wrong Road will be the largest production of a Fontana script filmed in Western New York. Director Metin Hüseyin (The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling) and actors Kathryn Erbe (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), Lee Tergesen (Weird Science, Oz), and Mark Ryder (Borgia) are also part of the project, as well as Buffalo State alumni Rafael Mencía, ’18, as director of photography, and Kyle Mecca, ’13, as first assistant director. 

The 30-minute film—which premieres at the North Park Theatre May 12 at 11:30 a.m.—is about a young man on a cross-state drive who gets lost and finds himself at a mansion, where two strangers seem to know all the details of his complex life. The film will be submitted to festival competitions.

Fontana graciously gave us a few minutes of his time to answer questions about this hometown project.

What do you recall about being a student at Buffalo State? 

I was a student during the days of the anti–Vietnam War protests, so a lot of my memories are centered on those activities. That said, I remember the tight-knit community we had at Casting Hall, putting on plays. And, of course, our professor, Warren Enters, was a significant part of our education.

How did the seeds of your career begin at Buffalo State? 

While at Buffalo State, I wrote, directed, produced, and even acted in plays, the experiences of which I have used as a showrunner in my television work.

How does it feel to be centering Buffalo so prominently, both by filming in Buffalo and working with Buffalo actors and film professionals?

I love Buffalo and have tried for years to convince the executives in Hollywood to let me film a TV series here. Now that the film industry in Buffalo has grown with such great sound stages and personnel, I’m hoping to do more shows in Western New York.

How did you arrive at the idea to involve Buffalo State students in the filming?  

Having been a part of TFA since its birth, I’m always trying to figure out how to expand the program’s reach. Last year, I brought Rosalie Joseph, a fabled casting director, to the school to put the students through their paces.

What are you most looking forward to about the filming process?

Getting to know the students involved in the production, though I know a couple through our New York internship program. I’m hoping working alongside such talented professionals as Metin Hüseyin, Katie Erbe, Mark Ryder, and Lee Tergesen, the students will get a taste of how to build a career.

Why is it so important to you to give back to Buffalo State?

Buffalo State was a major element in my development as a writer and producer. I want others to see what’s possible.