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N.Y film czar helps pump up location shoots

To make CBS and David Letterman more comfortable in the Ed Sullivan Theatre, the city film office recently got the parks department to plant pear trees outside the theater on Broadway.

While it’s an open question whether Richard Brick will still be film commissioner by the time the trees bear fruit, his efforts already have been fruitful after a year in office, according to a city study released last week.

“Beyond the Glitz: Lights, Camera, Jobs,” compiled by the city’s economic policy and marketing group, says the location business is at its strongest since 1991, when studios boycotted the town over a labor dispute.

The report found that shooting days in Gotham increased by 38%, saw a rise of 30% in permits secured by producers and signaled not only a return of studios absent since the boycott, but also a willingness on their part to shoot entire films here instead of just a few weeks of exteriors.

The study also recommended contruction of new studio facilities.

Brick, who has been in office about a year, attributed the growth to a number of factors. “When we came in, things were at a low point and (were) poised for improvement. There was a very negative perception of New York and it was a matter of changing that around after the boycott and the mishandling of the commissioner’s appointment.”

The film office’s budget was doubled, and studios were courted by Brick, his deputy Charles Darby and union officials eager to woo producers.

Brick said the office finally had something to offer other than the skyline: Newfound flexibility of unions, including IATSE, the Teamsters and the Screen Actors Guild, as well as the evolution of the East Coast Council, which makes union deals for pix with budgets as low as $ 1 million.

Brick said the office concentrated on winning back films and is ready for a strong 1994 with such big-budget films as Fox’s “Die Hard III,” Warner Bros. “Batman III” and Columbia’s “The Money Train” poised to shoot here.

The next step, according to the report, is to lure cable programming and movies of the week. Other proposals included providing financing to film and TV producers who commit to spending the lion’s share of their programming in New York.

The next commissioner will have the benefit of new and larger office space in David Letterman’s building, complete with a computerized permit system.

The big question is how Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his appointee will utilize the information. Giuliani is putting together commissioner candidate lists already, sources said. Some industry players have said it’s worth remembering how long (eight months) and destructive the search process became before Brick was appointed.

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