Gotham is a filmmaker's playground
New York is a city of neighborhoods, and each has its own history and flavor. Today, a large part of this history consists of movies. Everywhere I go I’m reminded of stories and scenes that were filmed there and the incredibly talented creative community that was involved.
The Upper West Side reminds me of growing up in the same building as Jim Toback, with whom I have had the pleasure to collaborate on his last two New York-based movies — “Two Girls and a Guy” and “Black and White.”
Today the neighborhood hosts the Film Society of Lincoln Center, whose New York Film Festival is the event of the fall season. Both Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” and David Byrne’s “True Stories” opened there.
Chelsea makes me think of Brian DePalma, whom I got to know when we were both starting out in the industry. We would meet in the Toy Building on West 23rd Street, where we orchestrated the production of “Phantom of the Paradise” and “Sisters.” I’m very fond of those movies, and currently I’m working on a remake of “Sisters,” with fellow New Yorkers Nancy Savoca and Rich Guay. We’ll shoot it in Manhattan sometime next year in collaboration with another neighbor, Jonathan Demme.
The Village smacks of Abel Ferrara, a unique New York artist who captured the grit of this city as well as anybody in films like “Bad Lieutenant.” It also brings back memories of the New York theater, and in particular of the Joseph Papp Public Theater, where Joe and I were inspired to produce the film versions of David Hare’s “Plenty” and Eric Bogosian’s “Talk Radio.”
TriBeCa to me is Miramax. As any New York filmmaker, I constantly find myself interacting with Bob and Harvey, whose passion for film is matched, perhaps, by their passion for the city itself.
The very tip of Manhattan brings back the movies “City Hall” and “Wall Street.” Former Deputy Mayor Ken Lipper was a consultant on “Wall Street” and wrote the screenplay for “City Hall,” and working with him made me see that part of town in a whole new way.
I confess that in the ’80s and early ’90s my wife Annie and I lived happily in L.A. (where I still keep an office), but I stayed connected to this city through my films. I vividly remember being on the phone discussing how to make a movie out of a particularly intriguing New York tale (Brett Easton Ellis’ “American Psycho”), while watching the fires in L.A. in the wake of the Rodney King verdict. Ellis’ New York was frightening, but in those days, so was L.A. I found the book to also be ironic, not unlike Oliver Stone’s vision of “Wall Street” or Barbet Schroeder’s depiction of a chilly Manhattan society in “Reversal of Fortune,” (based on the book by another eminent New Yorker, Alan Dershowitz).
Today, eight years later, when I am in SoHo, it is probably for a meeting at Lions Gate with Mark Urman and Mike Paseornek, who will be distributing “American Psycho.” The film’s director, Mary Harron, lives on the Lower East Side. Every time I visit I am aware of something new — both in the nearby cutting room and the community in which she lives.
Midtown is where I have my office, in a building that has historically housed artists and writers, on the same block as Carnegie Hall, the Directors Guild of America and the newly reopened landmark Russian Tea Room — and three blocks away from Sony Pictures Classics, where Terry Malick are I are working on putting together new films. Art and commerce sit side-by-side in this part of New York — something as a producer I find both necessary and invigorating.
On the occasion of Variety’s special issue dedicated to the industry in our town, I am happy to observe that this city continues to inspire and nurture great, provocative talent, and to be a great place to do business. In fact, there has never been a more vibrant time for us than right now.
Edward R. Pressman
Ed Pressman has produced more than 50 films, including “City Hall,” “Wall Street” and “Bad Lieutenant.”