The Desperate Need for Film-Shoot Reform

“There were so many production trucks around and on Church Street yesterday, they had to do this on their Lucy and Desi bathroom trucks,” reports M.

“Our agency works hard to maintain a balance between the needs of productions and the communities in which they film,” replied the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment when I tweeted about the three shoots in the same area last week. What balance? The agency’s efforts are weighted toward the industry far more than the community. Take this week: There are at least seven productions in Tribeca, some over multiple days. (See the proof below.) That these shoots are disruptive to residents and businesses is indisputable. They colonize parking; they create more congestion; they’re often noisy and messy. They take, and what they give back is debatable. “The state spends $600 million a year to subsidize film and TV productions, yet promised job and tax gains remain elusive,” wrote the Village Voice last year, just one in a series of investigations that have shown negligible financial benefits.

Moreover, the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment barely takes the neighborhood into consideration, occasionally pausing productions in a certain area only when too many people complain. If it wants to create a mutually beneficial environment, here are a few simple fixes:

1. Residents should be able to find out about every shoot online, and which blocks will be affected, in advance of the notices required to be posted 24 hours out. (A rule that goes unenforced.) The agency likely claims it can’t make that information public because people will harass the shoots, and one in a hundred productions might inspire that kind of excitement. But what gets filmed around here tends to be TV shows that don’t cause much of a commotion with passersby. Could it be that the organization refuses to post a calendar online because, if it did, residents would be able to see, all at once, the outrageous number of shoots happening in the city?

2. The notices that get posted need improvement. First, we deserve to know exactly what’s filming: no more aliases! The lack of transparency on this front is inexcusable. There should also be a file number for every shoot, so locals can search online for details about what the production is allowed to do. Finally, any production office that doesn’t respond to a phone call to the number listed on the notices should be fined. I’ve given up trying, because no one has ever called me back.

3. The Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment should set up a dedicated phone line for complaints. The agency often relies on 311 to defend itself, arguing that few complaints must mean there’s no problem. That’s specious at best. There are a lot of us who don’t have much faith in 311, particularly for macro issues such as the glut of film shoots.

4. Most important, limits must be set—and made public—for the number of shoot-related activity that can happen on any given block in a certain period of time. I suspect that the agency tabulates shoots based on the specific location where filming occurs, but for nearly every shoot, many side streets are also negatively impacted. (See final photo below for just one example.) And some blocks are affected twice or more a week.

No one is saying that filming shouldn’t happen here at all. We’d just like a bit of cooperation. Please join me in encouraging council member Margaret Chin and Community Board 1 to demand more from the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment. Because if we don’t, the problem will not only continue, it will likely get even worse.

 

34 Comments

  1. So what? I live on Duane Street and I think it’s great there is so much production work going on. It’s exciting! Think of all the jobs it’s creating. Not only for the folks involved with the shoots but for local caterers, artists and others. It will all trickle down to local businesses. Tourists come to see the shoot they grab a bite at a local restaurant.
    This is New York City. Things happen here. If you want to live in a small town with no activity I might suggest moving someplace in the midwest?

    • The argument that anyone who wants a better-run city should move away is weak. Perhaps you can dig up some empathy for the local businesses that need to receive deliveries, but can’t, because their streets are always being commandeered by shoots. (Especially for the businesses on the block that get hit time and again. Add in the rampant placard abuse and you have an atmosphere remarkably unfriendly to small businesses.) I’d suggest asking the owners of shops and restaurants on Reade, Duane, Murray, and Franklin—streets that get hit over and over—whether they’d rather have the hypothetical business created by being in the background of a TV shoot or their street back.

    • What you’re saying is the ideal outcome but that’s not the proven reality. Talk to the local business owners. If there’s any noticeable difference in their business on shooting days, it’s a tick down because of the large number of trailers blocking the sidewalks. I’m also not sure if you know anything about the entertainment industry but there are no local caterers being used for any of these productions. They all are hired way ahead of time and come from the outer boroughs or jersey. There are no extra tourists that are coming to see a film shoot that was made public only 24 hours earlier (if that).

    • Also meant to add that I find the productions interesting as well. I love peeking around to see where the “SET” is and trying to get a glimpse of someone famous. I just feel like there needs to be some more organization and consideration.

    • I think JMc is a bit delusional as to the positive effects of movie production and their neighborhood takeovers to the local economy.

      JcM would only need to speak with a local business owner, or employee to learn about such things. There is a very large difference between living in a functional busy city and one where outsiders constantly come in and take daily life over for their own purposes, close down streets and sidewalks, and basically act as if they own the street you live, drive or walk on.

  2. i agree with erik. it’s too much. there needs to be some give and take. and for the record, i work in tv.

  3. Just a simple reminder that no production, no matter how big the stars, can stop you from walking down the block. It is a courtesy that they get to stop traffic or yell at local residents going about their daily tasks to walk around their productions.

    Courtesy should be a two-way street and the production people need to remember that they are merely guests. We local residents will go about our business and cede our sidewalks, stores, and restaurants only so far and for so long before ignoring production demands entirely.

    • Agreed. If the staff are polite, I will do as they request (within reason) to avoid interfering with their project. If they are rude (i.e. yell at me), I’ll gladly slow down, stop and tie my shoes, take out my phone to check if the president has texted me, and generally be a comically vengeful troublemaker.

  4. There seems to be at least 1 (sometimes more) shoot on Walker Street every week. Currently there are signs for something mysteriously called “MTT”. Where can one find out the meanings of these acronyms?

  5. The production (from small photo shoots to major motion picutres) in east Tribeca are nearly constant due to the “photogenic” nature of Cortlandt Alley. The generator trucks spew noxious fumes right to our second floor apartment. In some cases, the light, noise and fumes are so bad production our apartment is unlivable and our family has moved to a hotel until the shoot is over.

  6. Sorry but this page is turning into the angry and whiny page. Bring on the movie shoots, if you dont want them go live in Toledo.

  7. I actually kind of like the film and TV shoots, as long as the team is considerate and polite. (Then again, our bedroom is in the back so the shoots don’t disrupt our sleep…and we still sleep with “white noise” to drown out the sirens and car horns of everyday NYC

    Nevertheless, I would like to hereby file a formal complaint about all the complaining about complainers.

  8. Whining?
    Everyone enjoys seeing our beautiful city in a show or movie. But this isnt about not allowing or wanting filming in the neighborhood, its about the EXCESSIVE amount of permits granted, to particular streets over and over. The same streets over and over! The City has got to put some restrictions on streets, that are requested continuously. I don’t the city cares about “inconvenience” but they ~should~ care about the overflowing garbage cans,(bc they dont cart away their own waste) garbage left on sidewalk after a shoot, into the street (hello rat problem!) the constant sidewalk obstruction (liabilities everywhere) large equipment, power lines on the sidewalk etc, mixed with texting cell phone users has got to be lawsuit city…. It should be enough that people that pay the taxes here should not have to step over union workers and their lounge chairs like they are sitting in their living room, or enormous amounts of tape on every tree/pole/bike rack for their postings, but I don’t think they care.

    If you would like to make a constructive complaint direct to NYC film office:
    https://www1.nyc.gov/site/mome/about/email-the-commissioner.page

    • I wrote a respectful letter to Julie Menin (snail mail!). The next day there were signs for 4 shoots outside my door. No connection. I doubt she read the letter.

      The fact is, White street between Church and West Broadway is plagued with shoots and exhaust filling our windows constantly. They ignore the fact that idling trucks are only allowed on the avenues. I was told by the Film Office it is one of the two most popular spots in NYC.

      Please keep reporting on this.

  9. I have a different reason for resenting the neighborhood intrusion, and that is traffic. It is hard enough to navigate the street of lower Manhattan with all of the construction, and film shoots just make it harder for those of us not making deliveries but just trying to get around. Forget about parking on the street!

  10. Last night I saw a resident get into a yelling match with two separate PAs at a shoot on N Moore and Varick who wouldn’t let the guy pass to get to his apartment. So much for treating the locals respectfully. I was going to call the location manager and complain, but there were so many different shows filming I didn’t know who to call.

    • Yes, that’s unacceptable….The shoots want a vibe of this lived neighborhood, but they have to allow access by those who actually live in and support it.

    • By the way, they were setting up for 3 (!) shoots on Walker Street between Church & B’way yesterday. And today there are more trucks and orange pylons, so yet again (or perhaps a continuation from yesterday).

      The shoots included TV show and advertisements. Some of it was going on in and around M1-5.

      Anyway, the shoots were relatively quiet, and staff were polite and friendly.

    • https://www1.nyc.gov/site/mome/production-in-nyc/info-crews-communities.page

      “MOME expects crews to be courteous and accommodating to residents and business owners at all times. Production should always provide safe pedestrian walkways and allow access for buses, trucks, vans and cars. If you are experiencing a problem, explain your situation to the production assistants on set or, for larger shoots, the NYPD officer on site will assist you. If a problem remains, contact us immediately by dialing 212-489-6710. Do not wait until after the shoot. We will take appropriate action right away. After business hours, you can contact a Supervisor of the NYPD Movie/TV Unit at 646-739-9900.”

    • Donna – that was me yelling at the PAs, and yes, I’m totally sick of these shoots. On top of that experience, I returned home at midnight Friday and found a huge generator truck sitting outside of my second floor window making a ton of noise/stinking up the block. PAs told me it would be there until 4AM and seemed unable to find the production manager who was “busy”. I’ve seen these groups leave trash on our stoop, block sidewalks with their trailers/food tents and redirect pedestrian traffic for their convenience. We don’t pay astronomical taxes to live on a movie set for which we receive next to nothing in return. A substantial portion of the fees paid should go to our parks, schools and general neighborhood cleanup (which is increasingly littered with trash and dog poo).

  11. I’d rather deal with the film and TV shoots than deal with the toilet-trained gorilla who runs the boxing studio on Duane who feels it’s okay to lob a football at my head every time I walk by, or the bordello that has moved into the jewelry shop on the corner. But that’s just me?

  12. I work in the entertainment world and sometimes as an on-set or BTS photographer and fully agree that the area is overrun and overwhelmed with shoots. It’s been like this for years and shows no signs of getting better.

    They should set a cap for the weekly amount of productions and street closures for the area or raise the fee to get permitted for the specific areas that are overused.

    I live in FiDi but my office is in Tribeca and I pity you folks cause it’s rare we have even half of what goes on in my area, though we still get a fair amount it’s sporadic and reasonable for NYC.

    Tribeca, especially the central and northern parts are just blasted with productions always all week long for 50 – 75% of the year.

  13. I agree about the pollution from the trailers. If de Blasio even pretended to care about the environment….

    And the argument about creating jobs drives me nuts. Not that I don’t appreciate creating jobs, but since most of the people who work the jobs don’t live around here, they might actually appreciate if the job was located closer to them, which leads to my next point.

    There is so much more to NYC than Tribeca! Washington Heights is amazing! And as far as I know, only the Americans dared to film there. Too many great places in Brooklyn to name. Mr. Robot should be filming in the warehouse section down by the piers in Sunset Park. I can see Billions filming here because of its topic, but anything else, it’s sheer laziness.

  14. Real time… SCREAMING match with residents and crew on Beach st. Cops are here, trying to passify all. Its not happening. What a waste of NYPD resources. They are stopping traffic to the local small businesses here. And the residents are all up in arms. Its a fiasco. Equipment everywhere. Its not about the crew being nice or not, these blocks are exhausted!!!!

  15. I agree with Erik, the number of shoots has got totally out of hand. The trailers run their engines all night which means having to have windows closed, let alone the pollution that causes. The steps from the trailers impede the sidewalk and this is especially awkward in an area where there are so many children in strollers. Film shoots, OK but there must be some sort of limit to the number of them and where there are multiple shoots as there were the other day on Church, Reade and West Broadway, the inconvenience caused is exacerbated. For those people who are sufficiently star-struck to want to ogle celebrities and the shoots(!!!), maybe THEY are the ones who should move away….to Hollywood.

  16. Add to your list that they should be required to make a contribution directly to the neighborhood — i.e. fund the planting of trees, the repaving of streets, maintaining the parks, or general beautification funds. It’s crazy to me that the neighborhood gets all the issues related with the congestion but none of the benefits (i.e. money) supposedly provided to the city. Would make it far more palatable to know that we are getting something out of it.

  17. I live on leonard between church and broadway basically known as a construction site for the last 10 years and showing no signs of slowing down. Last week I went out- on the corner of leonard and church is an illegal construction shed with outdated permits and a film shoot on the same block. The trucks generators were going all day and night. I had to walk in the street to avoid notvonlyvthe film shoot but the illegal sidewalk construction. It is very unpleasant and anyone that says it’s exciting is delusional. I love my place where I live and work but going outside weekdays and even some weekends has become impossible and miserable. Add to all this the tickets we get for sanitation offenses that are not ours the noise of the constant cement and debris trucks and busses rerouted from Worth street construction and what you have is a total mess. It’s depressing. I have complained about all of this to the requisite agencies but they do nothing. The “new” residents seem oblivious to it all.

  18. I’m thinking that so many of these shoots take place inside buildings and I wonder if it is because the area has had so many “professionals” move into it that they are friends of friends in the film business who make extra money having these productions go into their homes. Having said that the people who like to see all the trucks take over our neighborhood clearly do not work in retail or the food industry. These productions bring nothing to the party but disturbance. I am all for production, manufacturing and a trove of activity but this is not what these film sets bring. They don’t shop locally – a lot of their teams are rude and they pollute the air with their endless engines. Go away, TriBeCa doesn’t want you. Long live small retail and bustling sidewalks.

  19. 311 while may feel nebulous to many it is productive when utilized…hope the complainers have logged one per bothersome shoot… otherwise, enjoy your frustration. We are part of NYC & have resources to use for objections and if thats what the Film office shows to justify the location ( no complaints = that all are happy) then you are part of the problem…if you get a case # its reported, could not be made easier via phone or app. If you’ve not done it…get used to the daily show.

    • Very good advice to log in and accumulate the 311 complaints but…. you MUST forward your SRNotification # to CB1, man01@cb.nyc.gov , so they have that record. Same thing, CB1 thinks all is fine unless/until they see the complaints. 311 sends the complaint to the appropriate agency to investigate but it goes no where after that unless YOU forward it to CB1. Then it is on record with your community advocates.

  20. Way Too many night shoots on Hubert St and Collister. 2 big productions last week. 1 per month is enough. They set up before dawn noisily, block entrance to our home and have huge lights on cranes glaring in our windows. In LA neighbors are informed in advance and compensated. In NYC productions should compensate with contributions to the neighborhood parks or school.

  21. I could barely drop off my kid at school, without begging a traffic cop for 10 minutes of standing time.

  22. I completely disagree with the benefits of having hollywood shoot in your backyard. I live in Brooklyn where every few weeks there is a film shoot of some sort. It’s a burden on the local economy. The few people that benefit are those leasing out the locations, while the resit of us have to deal with the downsides; like loss of business, lack of parking spaces, the noise and light pollution especially at night, blocking access to roads, sidewalks and peoples driveways, to the rudeness and entitlement of the cast and crew. I can recount several horror stories of dealing with production crews. The last time they shot a movie on my street the crew blocked my driveway and prevented me and my wife from leaving with our cars to go to work. When we came back later that night, our entire front yard was trashed out of spite. I filed a complaint but nothing was done about it. But when you dare interfere with their shoot they will send the cops to arrest you. My 90 year old grandmother was harassed several times by the studios for simply sitting on her porch when they were shooting a scene. Some of the residents of my block have taken to putting up vulgar and flashy signs in the windows to sabotage the productions because of the way we’ve been treated. My neighbor had the electricity cut to this house temporarily because he refused to shut off the lights for a scene they were shooting. Every time there is a movie shoot my businesses, lose over half their daily revenue and there is no recourse for me. The so called jobs that are supposed to be generated dont go to the locals, but to new arrivals from the west coast that have enough seniority. Much of the crew commute from outside the areas where the movie is shot. Most of the production staff told me they live in places like; Jersey, Yonkers, Long Island, Etc.

    Hollywood is cancer. It benefits the few at the expense of the many. I can no longer go to the theater and enjoy films because now I know how they’re made.

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