Just two days ago, New Yorkers were in the center of the media-entertainment universe. Now, they’re in the center of utter confusion.
“Everyone has been jolted,” said Bonnie Timmermann, a veteran film producer and casting director. “Things have to be put on hold until people get a grip on what’s happening in the world today. I think the busineess will be affected by it emotionally, economically and physically.”
There could be few tougher sells this week, for example, than a retrospective of Iranian films.
Nevertheless, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will press on today with its ongoing showcase of the works of Amir Naderi — just one of many signs of a city and an industry striving to return to normalcy in the wake of terrorist-fueled chaos.
Officials insist they have gotten no complaints about the film program. But its awkward timing highlights the daunting task confronting Gotham showbizzers, the vast majority of whom have yet to return to work.
Through a spokesman, Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein vowed, “We’ll join our fellow New Yorkers in rebounding from this tragedy.” The company, which so epitomizes the downtown Gotham film scene that the twin towers appear in its screen logo, is likely to remain shuttered today.
Along with simply trying to process Tuesday’s horrific events, New Yorkers are re-examining the city’s image both on- and off-screen.
“Our office had a clear view of the World Trade Center,” said Michelle Byrd, exec director of the Independent Film Project, whose annual film market and Gotham Awards this month surely risk being overshadowed. “We’ve got two of our biggest events coming up in the couple of weeks. We need to to assess where these events stand in the greater scheme of things.”
Richard Pena, director of Film Society of Lincoln Center as well as the head of the programming committee for the New York Film Festival, asserted that the fest, skedded for Sept. 28-Oct. 14, will continue as planned.
Julianne Cho, director of publicity for the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting said no decision had been made as to whether or not the office would stay open for the week. In the meantime, the issue of permits has been suspended to keep roadways clear for emergency efforts.
Kaufman Astoria Studios was trying to continue business as usual. Staffers were making it into work as best they could, and shooting had resumed on “WFAN” and “Sesame Street,” although Lifetime Studios was closed for the day.
Tuesday night, dressing rooms were used as makeshift overnight facilities for employees who couldn’t make it home and the commissary was manned with volunteers who stayed as long as it was necessary to keep everyone fed.
KAS Lighting, which operates out of the studio volunteered equipment to help with the rescue efforts. Lighting trucks and generators were dispatched downtown Tuesday, providing electricity that is no longer available south of Canal Street.
Also pitching in were the motion picture studio mechanics of Local 52. Business rep Dan Mahoney and secretary-treasurer John Ford were in their Time Square offices Wednesday manning the phones and trying to coordinate volunteer efforts.
Their members mobilized right away Tuesday and were running generators and cable all over Manhattan and the boroughs as necessary. Crews were at the impromptu triage center at the Chelsea Piers helping out and the union was listed with FEMA’s stand-by database in case further assistance was needed.
Execs at a few hardy firms — including Lot 47 Films, Kaufman Astoria Studios — made it to work Wednesday, but most offices south of 14th Street remained closed. Police checkpoints and barricades on 14th allowed only residents or workers with ID to pass through.
(Mike Fleming, Lily Oei and Jill Goldsmith in New York, and Jonathan Bing, Claude Brodesse and, Carl DiOrio in L.A. contributed to this report.)