Jonathan Sanger and Mel Brooks
For the producers of “The Producers,” the logistics of filming a musical were both complex and simple.
On the one hand, financing the picture was easier because the stage show had been so wildly popular. On the other hand, keeping the budget under control was difficult with the multitude of cast and crew necessary to film a musical.
“The numbers of dancers and singers and musicians that we had to deal with were huge,” Sanger says. “Our crew was twice the size of a normal movie crew. It required both more people and some very specialized expertise that you don’t always have in a regular movie.”
The filmmakers wanted to make the picture in New York, but weren’t sure if it would fit their budget. Because they were able to take advantage of some of the city’s many resources, filming in Gotham ended up being optimal.
Most of the cast and crew were local, which meant they could cut back on transportation and housing costs. Producers also chose to film at the brand-new Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, and thus, as the first film to shoot there, were able to work out a deal. Sanger says the state and local governments helped keep the picture in New York as well, noting, “I was very much involved in lobbying to get a benefit passed in the state and city … which was passed after we already made the decision and actually closed the gap enough to make it viable for us to film it in New York.”
Filming in Gotham also gave them access to the best of the best in the musical theater world. Sanger notes, “We had the best dancers in the world, and if we had made it anywhere else, we would have had to bring a corps of dancers with us.” As a result of staying in New York, Sanger says, “Almost all of the top dancers on Broadway were in the movie.”
In the end, filming without breaking the bank required a great deal of finesse, says Sanger: “The number that this movie cost, when you look atit in terms of what we actually achieved, was probably in the low or midrange of what a normal movie would cost … so that took a lot of coordination to make that happen.”
But Sanger, reflects, “I have to say it was the most fun I ever had making a movie.”