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It's not very often that Buffalo is mistaken for New York City.

But that's what's in mind for the werewolf movie "Ward's Island," being filmed entirely here to portray the Big Apple with a cast that includes Craig Sheffer, Ariana Richards and Dennis Haysbert.

"Buffalo, when filmed the right way, really can play as New York," said director Alexander Yellen. "It's a beautiful city, there are a lot of great resources, and we're happy to be filming here."

Tuesday, two stunt actors jumped from the Michigan Avenue Bridge, by the General Mills Cheerios plant, into the Buffalo River, leaving behind a traumatic crash scene of cars strewn around in all directions.

"I thought it would be much colder," said a smiling Kelleigh Miller, shortly before having to redo the jump a second and final time.

The bridge scene was an example of the benefits of shooting a picture in Buffalo, Yellen said.

"The film commission, the mayor, the police department and city workers have been incredibly helpful, allowing us to do things, like jumping off your bridges, that are much more difficult to accomplish in New York City," Yellen said.

Producer Christopher Ray praised the comparatively low costs associated with making a movie in Buffalo.

"I appreciate the town. They have been very cooperative and helpful here in Buffalo," he said. "This place is more affordable for our industry, especially in this range."

The film, which is about an outbreak of werewolves in New York City, filmed Monday in Delaware Park and the Erie Basin Marina. Ray estimated there will be three to four weeks of shooting.

Tim Clark, commissioner of the Buffalo Niagara Film Office, said "Ward's Island" is the fifth film to be shot in Buffalo Niagara this summer. "These movies throw a lot of money into the local economy," he said.

"Buffalo doubles for so many communities," Clark said. "We have another one sitting on the table right now that we have to scout this week. It is an architecturally specific request I think we can offer them. Buffalo would be a stand-in for a European city."

"Filmmakers seem to really zone in on our architecture and our assets," he added. "People arrive with a sort of misconception about Buffalo, but once they get here and see all the mansions and the grain mills and the bridges - architecture from every period - they're blown away. It's almost like a big backlot sitting in a Northeast city."

email: msommer@buffnews.com