Gotham emerges as prod’n powerhouse

Biz boom luring commerce, jobs

When it comes to filmmaking, Hollywood should watch its back. Gotham is emerging as a major contender in feature film production and serves as home to more and more TV shows with every new fall season.

Burbank, Calif.’s versions of luminous Manhattan skylines, gritty sidewalk scenes and historic N.Y. landmarks could soon be a thing of the past.

In addition to authenticity, TV and movie production in New York is bringing commerce and jobs to the Big Apple. And it’s bringing job unprecedented convenience for East Coast-based actors.

“For the past four to five years there’s been a dramatic growth trend of productions shooting in New York City,” says Pat Swinney Kaufman, deputy commissioner and director at the New York state Governor’s Office for Motion Pictures and Television Development. “Numerous people are employed, and the city has seen revenues at over $2 billion directly and $6 billion indirectly, through residuals.”

The recent onslaught of TV productions based in New York represents an even bigger coup for the Empire State. Episodic TV that often goes on for years can provide permanent jobs for people in the industry. Film projects come and go, but such TV fare as “Law & Order” and “Spin City,” which are lensed in Gotham, have emerged as the economic backbone of the East Coast production industry.”Major players in the industry live or have homes here,” Swinney Kaufman says. “Now they will be able to shoot their film or TV show, and still be able to go home and see their children at night.”

Whenever studio space is needed in New York, it’s the New York state Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development that unearths the sites.

“We’ve made a major goal to find space if there’s none available,” Swinney Kaufman says. “We’re very excited about the tremendous potential for the Yonkers Stage and BICC soundstages, and the studio sites in development like Beth Page in Yonkers and Saks Warehouse in Nassau. We’re the office to call if you want to produce something in New York.”

Currently under construction is LTV Studios in Wainscott. The area, located just off the stretch of Montauk Highway that runs between tony South Hampton and even tonier East Hampton on Long Island, has been a hot bed for construction in the last 10 years. When the studio is completed in January, it will be the largest studio on the island.

Just down the Long Island Expressway in Riverhead, airplane hangars are being converted to soundstages at Claverton Base, though no completion date has been set.

And over at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, much ado has turned out to be about not much. A planned $150 million studio facility that was to be a joint venture between Robert De Niro and Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein got the kibosh when N.Y. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani — after publicly sanctioning the project — balked and made a deal with New Jersey financier Douglas Steiner.

Whether the turnaround was politically or financially motivated is relegated to dinner party speculation: Weinstein is a vocal supporter of Giuliani’s Senate rival Hillary Clinton; Steiner has donated amply to past Giuliani campaigns.

Still, under the De Niro-Weinstein joint venture, the city would have had to put up $25 million and a sticking point was whether the money was coming in the form of a loan or grant.

In any case, 11 soundstages will soon grow in Brooklyn.

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