Industry Brings Money Into City, But It’s a Mixed Blessing
By Zach Campbell
BROOKLYN — New York is by far the world’s most filmed city, and Brooklyn is an integral part of this activity. This week alone, Brooklyn Heights has been home to film crews shooting three TV shows and two feature films.
Neighborhood residents, however, often take issue with the impact of these productions: film crews often block off a street, restricting movement through a neighborhood. They also can take up entire blocks of street parking, produce excess light, noise and commotion, and leave trash when they pull away.
Film and TV production is one of the city’s major industries: According to the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, the city agency that coordinates filming in all five boroughs, it employs around 100,000 people and generates more than $5 billion annually.
Permits are required if a crew is to assert “exclusive use” of any city property for their production. A permit costs $300 and requires that a production company carry liability insurance for the entire shoot. Aside from this, production companies do not need to pay to film in New York.
“The big studios will always introduce themselves — they are usually respectful and polite,” said Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Neighborhood Association, who added that “makers of commercials are much less considerate.” Stanton went on to explain that her association regularly receives complaints from residents over blocked parking spots.
The Mayor’s Office has published guidelines for how a film crew can minimize their impact on a community: They are recommended to familiarize themselves with the neighborhood, reach out to local business owners and neighborhood associations, and clean up the block before leaving. Violations can lead to permit revocation and affect their ability to get permits for future projects.
“They’re not just handing out permits — you really need to know what you’re doing when you go in there and apply,” said one production manager who was responsible for a shoot on Court Street yesterday. He later explained that a production company will usually hire a location manager to handle all interactions with the affected community.
Filming Can Both Hurt, Benefit Communities
Some location managers can be more involved than others. A quick walk down Court Street and Atlantic Avenue showed film-related trash, no-parking signs that were days past their removal date, and a production truck that was filling the sidewalk with black exhaust and leaking liquid into the street. Calls to the production companies responsible were not returned.
Filming, however, can also benefit a community: Production crews patronize local businesses and often hire local crews. Many will also donate to a neighborhood association after a shoot.
The Mayor’s Office has created a program of incentives for filming in New York. Production companies can receive large tax credits for using local crews and studios. The city also provides help with story development, scouting and budgets, as well as many other discounts.
“They have actually been bringing us more business,” said an employee at Café Catania on Atlantic Avenue. Outside, a production truck was parked, with stairs leading up to three dressing rooms.
According to the Borough President’s office, most filming in Brooklyn happens in the neighborhoods that border the East River, from Greenpoint and Williamsburg down to Red Hook, Gowanus and Park Slope. These neighborhoods are known for their picturesque 19th century row houses and their views of the Manhattan skyline.