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Filmmakers Explain Why They Love Working in New York

Despite the high costs, the crowds, and the congestion, New York City continues to be one of the world’s top production destinations. In 2015, a whopping $8.7 billion was spent on filmed production in the city. A robust Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment provides rebates and marketing assistance. The streets may be jammed with trucks and crew, but shows just keep on coming. Here’s what some Gotham players think about filming in the Big Apple.

Mike Birbiglia

Producer/writer/director/actor, “Don’t Think Twice”

The challenge is that everything here is expensive, and it’s hard to get around. But ultimately the benefits outweigh that — there’s an extraordinary amount of great crew and artists in New York, and you get the extraordinary production value of New York City architecture. And it’s a smart move, having rebates, because all these shows are a permanent ad for the city.

But you have to compete for crew with TV shows that have something known as “a budget.” Of course, then you’re filming at 2 in the morning and drunk people stumble out of the bar next door to your set, and one drunk girl looks in the monitor and says, “The framing is terrible.” Only in New York can you get heckled about the particulars of your aesthetic on the street.

Chanelle Aponte Pearson

Producer/director/actress, “The Lobbyist,” “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty”

With “An Oversimplification,” our total budget was around $80,000, and we received around $50,000 worth of advertising on bus and subway shelters through the Mayor’s Office marketing program. We should qualify for rebates with “The Lobbyist,” which will have a budget of more than $1 million, and we’re looking into how we can [benefit] not just from New York City but New York state. [The Independent Filmmaker Project] has been a great resource from a networking perspective in trying to get independent filmmakers into the same room.

I was born in the Bronx so I have a personal loyalty to the city. The amazing thing about being here is the number of untold stories. It’s important for me as a filmmaker to shine a light on stories that don’t get the recognition they deserve.

Hal Rosenbluth

President/CEO, Kaufman Astoria Studios

We have so much production going on in town, and people aren’t necessarily used to it. Sometimes you can be a victim of your own success, and it takes great work by folks like [New York City film commissioner] Julie Menin to get you through that. In the past administration, you’d have four productions on the same block on the same day; now they schedule you in.

Tax credits were never designed to make New York cheaper than anywhere else; they were meant to narrow the gap so it’s worth it to shoot in New York. Before that, accounting at the studios was winning the argument over creative. There’s an image of New York that shows it as a great place to work, live, and capture on film. As long as we can maintain that image, we’ll succeed. What we need now is a study on production’s impact on tourism. People come here all the time because they saw something in a movie or on TV.

Joshua Safran

Showrunner, “Gossip Girl,” “Smash,” “Quantico”

We shot two days on the “Quantico” pilot in New York City, and then we went to Montreal after the show went to series. But the goal was to come to New York and stay in New York. With “Gossip Girl” and “Smash,” I’ve already produced about 120 episodes in New York.

The good thing about New York is it has this atmosphere that inspires helping everybody around you, and the production value you get from simply turning on a camera is unparalleled. The only fault of the Mayor’s Office is that they’ve inspired so many shows to move here, and it’s trickier than it has been in the past. Sometimes we have to take our third or fourth choice [in location] because we only know a week and a half in advance where we want to be. What needs to happen next is for more shows to bring their writers and post here — not just 50% of the production. That’s the next wave.”

Christine Vachon

Producer, “Carol”

I think that some people in certain neighborhoods are really overrun with production — like the East Village, where I live — and people don’t always like coming home and being told to wait to get access to their car. But people need to understand that the benefits outweigh the pain in the ass.

We definitely need tax credits and rebates; if credits go away, the business goes away. It has a big influence on where we decide to make what we make, and it allows risks to be taken creatively that would not be taken otherwise. We have a good relationship with the Mayor’s Office — they try hard to listen to the needs and concerns of filmmakers here. Why do I like it? I can take the subway home. Everyone likes to go home to their family at night.

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