A record high of 23 primetime television shows are being filmed in New York City today, the Mayor’s office of Media and Entertainment announced this week at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
At the press conference, borough hype-man Marty Markowitz jumped at the occasion to liken us to the land of desecrated dreams, porn and poor actors-turned worse waiters. “There has never been a more exciting time for television production in Brooklyn and throughout New York City,” he told reporters. “Or as I call it: Hollywood East.”
It’s a stretch, of course, but the film biz really is becoming a player in New York’s overall economy. According to the mayor, the City’s entertainment industry now provides over 100,000 jobs, contributes $5 billion dollars annually and supports over 4000 local businesses. Last year alone, over 200 films were shot on location here. Even Larry David has dropped the paradisiacal afternoon lunches to come back to where he belongs for the 8th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
DUMBO, -with it’s post-industrial backdrop and the midtown skyline peaking in at just about every corner, attracts close to six film shoots a day (to the dismay of locals looking for parking). Appropriately, one couple from Maryland on a recent visit to Brooklyn commented, perhaps unknowingly: “Everything is so picturesque, so cinematic. Walking the streets feels like walking a movie set.”
According to Douglas C. Steiner, Chairman of Steiner Studios, “This onslaught of film and television production here is a direct result of the mayor and other elected officials working together to make New York City competitive and hassle-free.”
Competitive? Sure. The mayor invested $28 million in Steiner Studios to help create one of the largest sound stages on the East Coast. The City, along with the Federal government and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, is investing an additional $15 million to expand the size of the studio and ultimately provide a location for the Brooklyn College’s Graduate School of Cinema there, the first ever graduate school in the country located on a working film lot.
But hassle free? Not so much. Last April, Bloomberg implemented the first ever City Hall permit fee for film and television production companies shooting on location, citing “budget woes.” According to Crain’s, film permits had been free since 1966. Today, movies, commercials, music videos and television series must pay $300 before the film starts to roll.
New York City, the oft-cited birthplace of independent film, finding its roots in the early 80’s DIY No Wave Cinema craze, is no longer the film-maker-nerd playground it once was. $300 might be a nominal, negligible cost for a major studio, even for a “conglomerated-indie,” like Miramax and Warner Bros. Not so however, for the true no-budget or low-budget independent filmmaker.