4. New York, New York
“Shooting in New York City is like being in the most exciting relationship of your life,” says Emma Tillinger Koskoff, producer of Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film The Irishman. “But it can only be successful with a huge support system. I’ve shot all over the world and I can tell you I always find that system here. New York crews are exemplary—talented, committed, hardworking, loyal, professional, and fun.” Koskoff also praises the Mayor’s Office for their ability to meet “unique challenges” as well as the NYPD’s Movie/TV Unit, which she says tends to go above and beyond to get the job done. She adds: “New York is a great city to shoot in, but it can be arduous and expensive. Then again, what part of moviemaking is easy and inexpensive?”
Erica Lee, producer of the upcoming trilogy capper John Wick: Chapter 3, struck a similar note, asserting that even if there are cheaper and potentially less-challenging alternatives, the downside is that they aren’t New York. “We love shooting in New York,” she says. “We decided early on when we were prepping Wick 1 to shoot in New York City even though it was cheaper to shoot in many other places. The scope and scale that the city brings to a film is unquantifiable. You also get amazing crews and actors; it can be challenging at times, but the city has become a real character of the film, part of its DNA.”
Four entries into our list, a theme is emerging: expansion. At the Crain’s Entertainment Summit in October, NYC’s film czar Julie Menin said one of the city’s film-related priorities in 2018 has been to spread production more evenly across the boroughs, noting that city stages were already quite full and expected to be more so. (Roughly half of the 12,000 permits submitted to NYC annually are Manhattan location permits.) In August, the Mayor’s Office began accepting proposals from media tenants who want to fill space in a $136 million development project at the Bush Terminal complex in Sunset Park, Brooklyn; there’s expected to be workspace for some 1,500 film and TV professionals (or photographers, sound engineers or emerging media artists, depending on who grabs it).
“There’s never been a better time to be an aspiring film or TV professional in New York City,” Menin tells MovieMaker. “The industry is booming and opportunities abound. The Mayor’s Office has rolled out workforce programs to help diverse New Yorkers gain the skills they need to work in the industry, from post-training and free Made in NY career panels, to our Writers’ Room program in partnership with the WGA East.” Menin also notes that the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) is working on addressing the gender gap in media with the creation of a $5 million Women’s Film, TV and Theatre Fund. So, what could the city be doing better? There’s still room for more infrastructure, according to The Irishman producer Jane Rosenthal: “We have the best and most diverse talent above and below the line, but the additional state of the art facilities would be a welcome addition to the current landscape,” she says. “Movies and TV is over a $9 billion industry to the city and employs more than 130,000 New Yorkers.”
Now, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a couple of the unique offerings that put NYC at least in the running for every moviemaker pondering a move. An exhibit celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, featuring original drafts, illustrations, and rare books on loan from Potter publisher Scholastic as well as J.K. Rowling’s personal archives, is open at the New-York Historical Society until January 27, 2019. For those seeking a more visceral experience, this past summer the New York Aquarium, off the Coney Island boardwalk, opened its decade-in-the-making exhibit Ocean Wonders: Sharks! A year-round exhibition featuring 18 kinds of sharks and rays among 115 marine species, the aquatic menagerie is in a 57,000-square-foot pavilion that includes an immersive Canyon’s Edge viewing precipice as well as a coral reef tunnel where visitors are surrounded by sharks. Film industry folk may feel right at home.