News Column

City's film and TV expansion boosts outer borough spaces

August 1, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 01--Move over, Manhattan. The outer boroughs are fast becoming a popular draw as the city experiences a boom in film and television production.

Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, attributed the surge partly to film and TV makers learning how to use a broader range of city locales as backdrops for stories. "It's an expansion of filming in neighborhoods we haven't seen before," she said, citing the South Bronx, City Island, Williamsburg, eastern Staten Island and Jackson Heights as recently popular locales.

The state's 30% production tax credit is the primary draw, Oliver said, especially for TV productions with longer shooting schedules. The number of scripted and unscripted shows filmed in the city more than doubled between 2002 and 2011, when 91 programs were shot in the five boroughs, according to the city. Film production jobs increased by 59% during that period; TV positions were boosted by 76%.

With a healthy promotional assist from the city, productions discover that New York offers more than the usual landmarks. The boroughs can double for the Hamptons, Chicago, Washington and even outer space.

The sci-fi movie "Europa Report," opening Friday, is about astronauts on a mission to Jupiter's eponymous moon. It's set on their spaceship, stars an international cast and could have been filmed just about anywhere.

But director Sebastian Cordero didn't go to Hollywood or any of the usual spots to shoot it. He filmed at the Cine Magic production facility in Williamsburg. The studio fit his needs, and the neighborhood helped generate ideas during production. "I would either ride my bike to the set or meet with the cinematographer and talk about what we would do during the day at one of the local restaurants. It was very inspiring to be there," he said.

Dozens of facilities are popping up in all five boroughs with amenities such as green screens and exteriors that can be molded to fit any time or place. "We have the best and newest infrastructure," said Doug Steiner, chairman of Steiner Studio, which houses the 1920s sets of "Boardwalk Empire."

Outside of the studios, crews from film and TV productions such as "The Americans," "Burn After Reading," "The Good Wife" and "Solitary Man," starring Michael Douglas, have flexed their creative muscles by transforming neighborhoods.

"New York has streets and buildings that you can redress to make it look like a different time period or place. You can do it in Toronto but it's not as easy," said Silvercup Studios CEO Alan Suna.

Oliver said she has seen more demand by Hollywood execs to set up shop here, and that helps the city as a whole since the industry generates more than $7 billion in economic activity.

"We have 24-plus episodic TV series expected to shoot this year. This inspires real estate developers to come up with new space and meet this demand," she said.

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Supporting boros

Here's a list of some recent movies and TV shows filmed on location in the outer boroughs:

'Now You See Me': Shot at 5 Pointz in Queens

'Broken City': In DUMBO 'The Bourne Legacy': At JFK Airport, and at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens

'Men in Black 3': Filmed scenes at Coney Island and Morris Park in the Bronx

'The Good Wife': Filmed scenes at Queens Plaza and Sunnyside

'Girls': Greenpoint; Williamsburg

'The Americans': Bell Boulevard in Bayside

(Katharine Ulrich)

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