Gotham pic prod’n ready to roll

'Third Watch' is first up to lense in Manhattan

NEW YORK — New York is back in the TV and movie business.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s Office of Theater, Film & Broadcasting will allow crews to resume shooting in Manhattan today, for the first time since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Opening the city to lensing was in part contingent on the availability of police officers, who normally oversee film shoots. The NYPD’s involvement with the rescue effort at ground zero prevented officers from working with the mayor’s until now. Scott said 14 officers will occupy conference rooms at the film agency’s Midtown offices,. The unit’s former office near World Trade Center and remains unusable.

NBC’s “Third Watch” will be the first to shoot in Manhattan, taking to the streets of Harlem on Thursday, according to spokeswoman Pat Scott. She said various commercials also will head into production in Manhattan on Thursday and Friday.

Feature shooting will begin next week. Among pics skedded to go before the cameras are the Scott Rudin-produced Paramount project “Changing Lanes,” starring Ben Affleck; and Disney’s Andy Tennant-helmed “Sweet Home Alabama,” starring Reese Witherspoon, which will begin shooting exteriors with production slated for a late October start in Gotham.

Features such as “Spider-Man,” “Stuart Little 2” and “Men in Black 2” are expected to return to Manhattan for reshoots by mid-October, with DreamWorks Television’s “The Job” and HBO’s “The Sopranos” due to start up at roughly the same date. “Law and Order” returns in November, having shot through August and taken a later than usual lensing hiatus.

The office had begun issuing film permits to crews Sept. 18, but those were for lensing in boroughs outside of Manhattan. The streets below Canal Street will remain closed.

Scott acknowledged that this summer’s threatened Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild of America strikes, combined with the fact that some television shows worked through August, fortuitously helped the city’s production biz through its current crisis. “The strikes that didn’t happen were, in a way, a strange blessing, since they gave us a window when there was not that much in production anyway,” Scott said.

Along with New York state film commissioner Pat Kaufman, reps from all local IATSE unions and a smattering of producers and reps for Silver Cup Studios and Kaufman Astoria Studios, Scott has been attending meetings designed to help facilitate production in Gotham. Of particular concern is returning commercial production to New York, since much had drifted to Canada and Europe after the 2000 SAG-AFTRA commercial strike.

Scott and others are optimistic that corporate America will try to make more commercials on U.S. soil, given the patriotic mood of the country, the hurting economy and the fear of traveling.

Concern about travel is, however, keeping organizers of film junkets away from the Big Apple: Gotham junkets for films including “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” “Don’t Say a Word,” “Zoolander,” “K-Pax,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Joy Ride” have hastily moved to Los Angeles.

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