Make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. Is that still true, Frank? Because there are 8.5 million people all trying to make it there, and if you’re in the business of film, you have some steep competition. Luckily, New York continues to present a veritable cascade of opportunities in TV and film with 256 films and 46 primetime episodic, digital and mini-series projects shot in the 2014-15 season (up from the year before).
Of course, rent is high, apartments are small, and the overall cost of living can make the daily grind seem almost impossible to maintain long-term. Where do New Yorkers find the strength to wait for another subway train, hail another taxi, stand in line at Duane Reade, or fight for a table at Sushi Nakazawa? After the collective spells of Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Nora Ephron, Spike Lee and Lena Dunham lure you into the city’s boroughs, what keeps you going?
Mandy Ward, co-founder of the five-day festival First Time Fest, says her New York-survival mantra is “Don’t show your weaknesses or insecurities, and live with passion.” She explains: “Success in New York depends on you. I’ve been in the city for 13 years and have found a way to work in the industry as a locations manager, producer and film festival owner—and also pay my rent. With a great city comes sacrifice, but you can always figure it out.”
Craig Shilowich, writer and producer of Christine (in competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival), has been making movies in New York for 15 years and counting. He has collected some refreshing evidence against the city’s reputation for being too costly. “People have a misconception that shooting in New York City is more expensive than shooting elsewhere. I find it’s the opposite—that if you want to pull something off on the cheap, New York tends to be one of the better places to do it.” He credits the state’s stable and generous tax credit, ease of securing permits, and tight-knit, skilled crew pool for that.
New York’s 300 square miles of city streets, parks and architecture have provided the backdrop for hundreds of films—such as, in 2015, Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan, Jodie Foster’s Money Monster, the star-studded rom-com How to Be Single, Zach Braff’s Going in Style … you know, the usual roster. Perhaps the biggest star to emerge in recent years, though, is the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, with its “Made in NY” program assisting productions with permits, police, marketing and other pieces of the logistical puzzle of shooting.
So you still wanna wake up in the city that never sleeps? Then here’s your survival guide: Reach out to potential collaborators in students and faculty at Columbia and NYU, the School of Visual Arts, The New School and New York Film Academy. Volunteer at a film festival, like Tribeca, New York Film Festival, New Fest, DOC NYC, Big Apple Film Festival and so on. Feed your cinematic soul at the IFC Center, Angelika, Film Forum, Landmark Sunshine, BAM Rose, Village East and The Ziegfeld. There are even brand new art house cinemas planned for this year. So go see theater, walk the High Line, picnic in Central Park, snap opinionated selfies by the Trump Tower and tell yourself, “I can make it here!”