I spent the last two days in a van driven by a Teamster with eight other people, scouting locations for my pilot. It was raining. The van kind of smelled. It was a total blast.
We’re shooting in New York City. This is no accident. I threw one after another iconic landmark and character into my script because I hoped this would force the issue. It’s a New York story! You can’t fake Times Square on some Hollywood lot!
Shooting in New York means a New York production staff. Who knew so many accomplished TV and film professionals live and work here? (Oh, you did? I didn’t.) Some have theater backgrounds; all just like it better here than in L.A. They don’t want for work, either. Their lists of credits are looong.
We trooped after our location manager into office buildings and churches and private residences and a courthouse. One law firm we visited would let us shoot while they work; one townhouse owner scooted away her daughter’s toys as we tramped from room to room. It’s not for free; each location demands a fee, and a hefty one at that. I suppose it’s one way to make your mortgage, but can you imagine letting strangers invade your beautiful home?
The best part was the van gossip. They’ve all worked with each other over the years on various projects, and when your colleagues are celebrities, there’s a lot of intel to trade. Even the van driver had stories. These guys know where all the bodies are buried.
Some things I learned during location scouting:
• If you’re shooting in March for a scene set in late summer, you’ll need special effects to color Central Park’s trees green.
• Likewise, if your script would force your poor actors sit outside in March on a fire escape in underwear, you’ll probably have to build that set indoors.
• Even if the scene is set in a small space, like, say, a starter apartment, you still need a ton of room for cameras and crew.
• New Yorkers get really pissed when you shoot near their homes. I know this from when we lived on the Upper West Side and we’d curse “Law & Order” for hogging all the parking on our street.
• The City has rotating “hot zones” where you’re not allowed to shoot. This is supposed to give residents in popular areas a break, but often a zone might magically sprout up in a VIP’s neighborhood.