Authentic locales

The challenges and rewards of shooting in and around New York

JAILBAIT
Production company: Belladonna Prods.
Director: Brett C. Leonard
Cast: Michael Pitt, Stephan Adly-Guirgis
Story: A young man enters jail and deals with his cellmate.

One side effect of New York’s lowering crime rate is that there’s lots of extra jail space available for filming. Producer Don O’Meara says they didn’t have a location manager for this low-budget production, but were able to call the Mayor’s Office for Film, Theater and Broadcasting and find out where they could film. They wanted Rikers, but got turned down. “They told us it was impossible, then I heard that ‘Analyze That’ had just shot there,'” he says. They ended up filming two days of establishing shots at Bronx Prison, and then built a matching set in Brooklyn.

STAY
Production company: Fox
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Ewan MacGregor, Naomi Watts, Ryan Gosling
Story: A college professor tries to keep a student from committing suicide.

If you’ve got a car crash on the Brooklyn Bridge in your script, it’s not exactly one of the city’s easiest places to film, with traffic flowing both ways and pedestrians strolling down the middle. For that reason, and especially since 9/11, the city has been reluctant to allow film productions to shut it down. So when the city said yes to his request, director Marc Forster says, “It felt pretty unique and special.” They spent nine days there, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., shutting down traffic in one direction, and also on the walkway.

HIDE AND SEEK
Production company: Fox
Director: John Polson
Cast: Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Amy Irving, Famke Janssen
Story: A widower moves his daughter out to the suburbs after her mother dies.

If you’re trying to capture idyllic New York from a child’s point of view, the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park might be top of the list. That’s where “Hide and Seek” went for its opening shots. The rest of the film shot in locations around the state, particularly the Hudson Valley, with interiors done on a set at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City. “When we met with Bob and realized he wanted to do the movie and shoot it in New York, it seemed like the right thing to do,” says producer Barry Josephson, who sent plenty of productions out of the country for budgetary reasons when he was running Fox.

THE INTERPRETER
Production company: Universal
Director: Sydney Pollack
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn
Story: An interpreter at the U.N. overhears an assassination plot.

Nobody has ever been allowed inside the U.N. to film before, so what did it take for Sydney Pollack to get in the building to shoot his movie? In-person negotiations with Kofi Annan. “I wasn’t trying to sell Kofi Annan,” says Pollack. “I said off the bat, this is a piece of entertainment, not a treatise on the U.N.” A $100,000 grant from New York’s economic development agency didn’t hurt. The whole state seemed to spring into action to keep this production in New York instead of Canada, where Pollack had already scouted sets.

LOOKING FOR KITTY
Production company: Marlboro Road Gang
Director: Edward Burns
Cast: Burns, David Krumholz, Connie Britton
Story: A man comes to New York looking for his wife and hooks up with a private detective.

Burns has always filmed in out-of-the-way corners of New York, and with this feature concentrated on Greenwich Village. “What we tried to do is capture the last spots in the city that haven’t been totally gentrified,” says Burns, who lives in Tribeca. He was shooting this film on a low budget with a digital camera and a small crew, so they weren’t shutting down huge swaths of the city and were practically inconspicuous. “New Yorkers are so apathetic toward film crews,” he says. “You never get anybody walking through (a) shot looking at the camera.”

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