When you live and work in New York, you spend a huge amount of time on tv and movie sets. Most of the time the sets are abandoned by the shooting crews, but very frequently tv or movie magic is happening as you are walking by.
Why is New York so overrepresented on screen? Part of it is because it’s New York. But it’s also because the city government is also very friendly to the moving picture industry.
When I worked on a website for Kenneth Cole, I learned an interesting factoid: the real name of this fashion powerhouse is Kenneth Cole Productions. It turns out that in the early days they abused a perk that the city gives to movie people: ability to park their huge trailers in places where normally only city services vehicles can linger. Cole applied for a permit to shoot a movie called “The Birth of a Shoe Company”, parked a huge truck in front of a hotel where a major shoe show was taking place, and proceeded to sell enough shoes while cameras were rolling (sometimes even with film) to start a company.
While watching a movie or a show set in New York I get a lot of “oh, hey it’s” and a lot of “hmm, where’s that?” moments. Sometimes a movie or a show becomes more memorable just because its locations are so familiar to me.
Let me give you some examples about how cinematically impregnated my environs are. Take, for instance 30 Rock. I spent 7 years working in two buildings that are behind 30 Rock, and every little thing in, under and over Rockefeller plaza is seared in my brain. Also, I have the same last name of one of the actors (is Jane Krakowski a relative? Probably not).
The 47-50th Street/Rockefeller Center subway station that I got out at almost every day for those 7 years (unless I missed a few stops while reading or sleeping) is the one featured in a key scene in Darren Aranofsky’s “Pi”. The Brighton Beach bus stop in “Requiem for a Dream” – one of my first American jobs was right there, handing out fliers for a gypsy psychic. One of the buildings where I worked, 1211 Avenue of the Americas was very subtly featured as Sideshow Bob’s prisoner number in a Simpson’s episode.
Sterling Cooper corporate headquarters are famously located at a non-existing 405 Madison Avenue. On the other hand 415 Madison Avenue is a very real building where my wife used to work.
When I go to and from work now, I pass a grating which John McClane ripped off in one of the Die Hard movies to jump on the top of a moving train. The building where I work? Well, it doubles as the Massive Dynamic headquarters on “Fringe”. They do a lot of shooting at the floor where I work. You can see our big conference room called “Jail” in a number of commercials. You know, Doctor House, he’s supposed to stay in New Jersey, but one time he slept on “my” couch at the office after shooting a commercial there. The butterflies of doom from Fringe also live in “Jail”.
Ironically, the only famous person who went to my hight school is Larry David, the co-creator of a certain show about nothing set in New York, but shot in LA.