Bollywood produces the most movies in the world. Hollywood is known as the planet’s entertainment capital. But there is a sleeping giant in the entertainment industry — New York City.
Being the biggest city in the world, New York was the setting of a multitude of shows, but not their home: Seinfeld, Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond all shot 3,000 miles away from where they were located. Even now How I Met Your Mother, Mad Men and CSI: New York film in California.
But within the last decade, there has been a New York renaissance in production not seen in a century.
The television boom over the past 10 years has seen the number of series filmed here more than triple. Twenty-three series filmed in New York City throughout the 2011-12 television season, including, Boardwalk Empire, The Good Wife and Law & Order: SVU.
Besides the shows that film in NYC exclusively, more than 100 television shows and movies have used the beautiful backdrop of New York City over the past year and the city revels in a entertainment production revival.
“With our beautiful city, talented workforce and the assistance offered by our ‘Made in NY’ program, New York City has surpassed all previous records for film and television production,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
New York is now becoming a first choice when deciding where to film, according to insiders, and at the center of the record boom is western Queens’ Silvercup Studios and
Kaufman Astoria Studios and Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios.
Kaufman originally opened in 1920 as Astoria Studios, and quickly became the mecca of the silent film era. Upon America’s entrance into World War II, the studio was taken over by the U.S. Signal Corps. and became known as the Army Pictorial Center where armed forces training films were shot.
The building eventually fell into disuse and disrepair until 1977’s production of The Wiz featuring Michael Jackson. It was fully renovated and revived in 1980 after the sale of the lot to George S. Kaufman. Since its rebirth, some of the biggest stars have passed through the studios doors. Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Big Bird have called Kaufman Astoria Studio home, while Glengarry Glen Ross, Scent of a Woman and The Cosby Show were filmed there.
Out of a former flour silo rose the next great NYC studio, Silvercup Studios. The Long Island City studio opened in 1983 and quickly established itself as the largest independent, full-service film and television production facility in the Northeast. It has shot such classics as When Harry Met Sally, The Sopranos and City Hall. Currently, the stars of Gossip Girl, 30 Rock and Person of Interest call it home.
The “largest and most sophisticated studio complex outside of Hollywood,” Steiner Studios opened in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2004. It has played host to Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Angelina Jolie. The studio’s lot has been used by Sex and the City, American Gangster and Spiderman 3.
The shows may use the studios to shoot much of the show, but filming in the city allows them to use it as a backdrop whenever they see fit. And it’s not just a quick exterior establishing shot of NYC, You no longer have to watch a “New York” show like Seinfeld and see the characters walk down the same fake city street in every episode. Instead, you have Alec Baldwin in Rockefeller Center, or Blake Lively in Central Park, or Zach Galifianakis exploring Manhattan, it gives the show an authenticity that is impossible to reproduce on a set.
Seeing the characters outside a pizzeria that you’ve gone into, brings realism to the show. It’s not Central Perk on Friends, it’s New Roma Pizza on How to Make It in America.
New York isn’t resting on its record breaking laurels, either.
“New York City is a television town, and we’re thrilled that we broke records for television production in 2011,” said Office of Media & Entertainment commissioner Katherine Oliver. “The mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment is committed to working hard to make sure that the industry continues to grow and expand in 2012.”
And it’s not just the sheer number of shows being produced, it’s good television. Last year, city productions earned 110 Emmy nominations, winning 23 awards.
It’s exciting to recognize the locales used during the shows, but even more exciting could be recognizing yourself or one of your friends in the background. In 2011, more than 11,000 extras were hired on the television shows shot in the city.
So, with the productions multiplying exponentially, it may be only a matter of time before you find yourself watching yourself on the screen.