From fireworks to frozen lakes, demands are mostly met
If scribes can dream them up, then location managers, with the help of state and city commissioners, will try to satisfy outrageous requests.
These have ranged from a frozen lake next to an unfrozen one (no); closing a well-trafficked bridge and a tunnel (yes to both); to a hot tub with a view for two men and a yak (maybe).
Pat Swinney Kaufman, head of N.Y. State Governor’s Office for Motion Pictures, is used to meeting tough demands.
” ‘Late Show With David Letterman’ asks for crazy things all the time,” points out the commish. Last fall, she helped get permission to catapult pumpkins over the Hudson River at New Jersey — getting the paperwork done in just a week’s time. Environmental regulators required the show to retrieve the pumpkins from the river, so — essential to the permit — boats were on call to fish out the projectile veggies.
“What Lies Beneath” asked to close the only bridge across Lake Champlain for two nights. The bridge connects New York and Vermont.
“It’s a bigger deal than it sounds,” says Kaufman, who soon learned that ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont requires milk from New York cows. “God forbid you interrupt the flow of New York milk to Ben & Jerry’s,” says Kaufman, who found ferryboats and landings for smaller trucks.
Her office also coordinated with Vermont lumber mills and New York paper mills to rearrange shipping schedules.
Most requests, however, don’t involve altering the flow of interstate commerce. Still, commissioners seek to avoid the fallout generated by permitting unreasonable events.
Miamians still grouse about the “Bad Boys 2” car chase in August that shut down a major beach-to-mainland causeway for a week of shooting.
And Letterman’s neighbors haven’t forgotten his anni fireworks outside Gotham’s Ed Sullivan Theater in February 2002.
Nicole Hinrichs-Bideau of the Minnesota Film & TV Board says she gets an annual call, usually from a tyro filmmaker, to blow up buildings in downtown Minneapolis. She’s turned all of them down.
She is surprised by the many odd weather queries she receives: for that frozen lake next to an unfrozen one, for example, or for a frozen lake in summer. Neither was a can-do.
“People have a misconception about what frozen water is,” notes Hinrichs-Bideau.
For Park City, Utah’s, commish director Lynn Williams, satisfying the needs of an Olympic Games Delta Airlines spot was largely successful.
Two men in a hot tub exchange Olympic pins: one is a Mongolian. The hot tub with a view wasn’t a problem, finding a yak in Utah was a piece of cake, but there just wasn’t a hot tub big enough for the two men and the yak. Once the yak was replaced by a pot-bellied pig, the Delta Airlines spot was in the can.