Tag Archives: 30 Rock

Queens is the new Hollywood


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of CBS

Film crews unloaded crates of props and racks of costumes from the enormous trucks lining 35th Street next to Kaufman Astoria Studios. Neon notices posted on parking signs up and down both sides of the thoroughfare alerted residents that “Nurse Jackie,” the Showtime series starring Edie Falco, would be filming on that street over the next few days.

Western Queens, home to several of the city’s biggest film studios, has experienced an upswing in recent on-location shoots around the neighborhood, appearing as the backdrop for hit shows like “30 Rock,” “Gossip Girl” and “Person of Interest.” But consumed parking spots and increased traffic have locals and politicians questioning whether or not Hollywood’s existence in western Queens is symbiotic or parasitic.

Councilmember Peter Vallone said he became skeptical of the film industry’s presence after spotting illegitimate “No Parking” signs along both sides of 31st Street and on 23rd Avenue from 33rd Street to 28th Street, one of the most congested business areas in Queens. Vallone claimed the signs, which traced back to a Netflix original production called “Orange is the New Black,” were posted outside of the time designated to them by the Mayor’s Office of Film.

Vallone, while interested in helping to facilitate the movie and television industry, is adamant that crews respect the locals who call their on-and-off sets “home.”

“This is an industry that we like and want to cooperate with as much as possible,” said Vallone. “We want to make sure when they film in our neighborhood, they cause as little aggravation as possible for neighbors and business owners.”

According to Mayor’s Office of Film spokesperson Marybeth Ihle, the entertainment production industry employs over 130,000 New Yorkers and contributes $7.1 billion to the city’s economy each year.

“Whenever you see a film crew on your block, whether it’s the camera operator, costume designer or caterer, you’re really seeing your fellow New Yorkers hard at work,” said Ihle.

Production levels are on the rise throughout New York City, according to Ihle. At least 24 prime time television series are filming their current seasons in the Big Apple. Ihle said the Office of Film seeks to find a balance between the needs of the industry and those of the community.

According to Ihle, filming locations are determined by scouts who work with the director and producers to determine and secure the best location based on the needs of the script.

Western Queens isn’t the only film-worthy destination in the borough. Douglas Manor, a historic section of Douglaston regarded for its isolation and the unique architecture of its homes, has provided the scenery for countless movies and television shows, including CBS’s “Blue Bloods” and NBC’s “Person of Interest” and the recent Nicole Kidman art-house flick, “Rabbit Hole.” Currently, the “Sex and the City” prequel, called “The Carrie Diaries” is filming in Douglas Manor.

A neighborhood representative of Douglas Manor said the community is split between those who don’t mind sharing their streets with film crews and those who do. While filming locations are chosen by the city and not Douglas Manor residents, the representative said local officials attempt to soften the impact the industry has on their neighborhood.

“We try to make it so their presence isn’t overwhelming to the community,” said the representative. “We appreciate them working with us and listening to the needs of the community and reaching out to us.”

Mira Castillo, a manager at Café Bar on 36th Street in Astoria said many daytime patrons at her restaurant are studio employees on their lunch break and the film industry’s presence in the neighborhood boosts business.

“A lot of our day business relies on their business,” said Castillo.

But, it’s not just in-house patrons who are getting a midday meal from Café Bar. Castillo said her restaurant delivers daily to nearby Silvercup Studio.

“[The film industry’s presence] is a good thing,” said Castillo. “It feels like we’re a part of their process and helping get their jobs done.”

Recently, Café Bar was asked by a film company if scenes for a new television show could be shot inside their restaurant. Castillo said they had yet to make a final decision.

Prop master: Zoë Morsette’s creations bring magic to screen and stage


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

DSC_0894w

Zoë Morsette’s studio is where the magic happens.

The prop goddess, who creates ice that won’t melt and feathery, oversized chicken costumes for “30 Rock” stars, houses the enchantment of the theatrical world inside her 21st Street space, where she creates props and costumes for Broadway productions and television shows.

On a damp, grey afternoon, Morsette sat at her work station, shaping plastic straight-razors crafted from melted hair combs with a handheld tool for “Peter and the Starcatcher,” the prequel to “Peter Pan.”

“They keep snapping,” she sighed, examining the instrument which had been redesigned after several of the shows’ actors repeatedly broke her original prototypes.

Overhead, a purple alien limb bobbed in the fan-fueled breeze, displayed like a prize-winning taxidermy marlin. She had made it, cost-free, for a science fiction production at The Secret Theatre. She was happy to help a local artistic organization.

“It was always magical for me when the house lights went down,” she said, reminiscing on a lifetime spent in show business.

A center-stage fixture during her youth, Morsette left her hometown of Cape Cod, Massachusetts to attend Skidmore College, where she studied dance and theatre. She moved to New York City immediately after graduation in 1973. While aggravated tendonitis in her foot prohibited her from dancing professionally, she remained active in the industry, working at the Colonnades Theatre — the downtown venue where big names like Jeff Goldblum and Rhea Perlman got their start. Morsette assisted in the costume department, learning to swatch fabric and assemble patterns. The company couldn’t afford to pay her, so instead of monetary compensation, they gave her free classes.

While working at the Colonnades, Morsette met her former husband, Cordell Morsette. The couple ventured west to North Dakota’s Standing Rock Indian Reservation, Cordell’s hometown, where Morsette taught dance classes for a short time.

“It didn’t work out,” she said briefly.

When her marriage unraveled, Morsette returned to New York City. A friend, who worked in the costume department at Radio City Music Hall as a milliner for the Rockettes, offered her a job. Morsette fashioned headdresses and specialty outfits for the dance company — a job she loved.

She produced custom window displays for Saks Fifth Avenue, Macys and Bloomingdales, including a topiary Jack Russell terrier for a Coach display that she grew particularly fond of.

In the mid-80s, Morsette began designing for Broadway shows. For “Les Miserables,” she crafted 40 dummies to litter the stage during a battle scene, playing dead soldiers. She granted each fake soldier a name, most after workers in the costume shop. For “Shrek the Musical,” Morsette made the show’s character Donkey.

Morsette’s most well-known piece — an advertisement for the New York Care’s coat drive, depicting a shivering Statue of Liberty huddled in the snow — lines the walls of countless subway cars and billboards.

In 2008, Morsette began designing props and costumes for “Saturday Night Live.” Her first assignment — a barrel costume for Will Forte to don during an episode of “Weekend Update” about the stock market crash – fell into her lap when a member of the show’s crew needed a barrel and knew Morsette had crafted one previously. She made it in less than 24 hours.

Through “Saturday Night Live,” Morsette received assignments for “30 Rock,” the show that gained momentum from former SNL stars, including Tina Fey and Jason Sudeikis.

“To see your stuff on stage and on screen is very rewarding,” Morsette said.

For the past 11 years, Morsette has designed one-of-a-kind teddy bears for an auction hosted by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Her bears, dressed in costumes from various musicals including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Camelot” have raised $43,000 to help actors, crew members and productions in need.

Prop master’s creations bring magic to screen and stage


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

QUEENS COURIER/ Photo by Alexa Altman

Zoe Morsette’s studio is where the magic happens.

The prop goddess, who creates ice that won’t melt and feathery, oversized chicken costumes for “30 Rock” stars, houses the enchantment of the theatrical world inside her 21st Street space, where she creates props and costumes for Broadway productions and television shows.

On a damp, grey afternoon, Morsette sat at her work station, shaping plastic straight-razors crafted from melted hair combs with a handheld tool for “Peter and the Starcatcher,” the prequel to “Peter Pan.”

“They keep snapping,” she sighed, examining the instrument which had been redesigned after several of the shows’ actors repeatedly broke her original prototypes.

Overhead, a purple alien limb bobbed in the fan-fueled breeze, displayed like a prize-winning taxidermy piece. She had made it, cost-free, for a science fiction production at The Secret Theatre. She was happy to help a local artistic organization.

“It was always magical for me when the house lights went down,” she said, reminiscing on a lifetime spent in show business.

A center-stage fixture during her youth, Morsette left her hometown of Cape Cod, Massachusetts to attend Skidmore College, where she studied dance and theatre. She moved to New York City immediately after graduation in 1973. While aggravated tendonitis in her foot prohibited her from dancing professionally, she remained active in the industry, working at the Colonnades Theatre — the downtown venue where big names like Jeff Goldblum and Rhea Perlman got their start. Morsette assisted in the costume department, learning to swatch fabric and assemble patterns. The company couldn’t afford to pay her, so instead of monetary compensation, they gave her free classes.

While working at the Colonnades, Morsette met her former husband, Cordell Morsette. The couple ventured west to North Dakota’s Standing Rock Indian Reservation, Cordell’s hometown, where Morsette taught dance classes for a short time.

“It didn’t work out,” she said briefly.

When her marriage unraveled, Morsette returned to New York City. A friend, who worked in the costume department at Radio City Music Hall as a milliner for the Rockettes, offered her a job. Morsette fashioned headdresses and specialty outfits for the dance company — a job she loved.

She produced custom window displays for Saks Fifth Avenue, Macys and Bloomingdales, including a topiary Jack Russell terrier for a Coach display that she grew particularly fond of.

In the mid-80s, Morsette began designing for Broadway shows. For “Les Miserables,” she crafted 40 dummies to litter the stage during a battle scene, playing dead soldiers. She granted each fake soldier a name, most after workers in the costume shop. For “Shrek the Musical,” Morsette made the show’s character Donkey. He now hangs from the ceiling in a corner of her studio.

Morsette’s most well-known piece — an advertisement for the New York Care’s coat drive, depicting a shivering Statue of Liberty huddled in the snow — lines the walls of countless subway cars and billboards.

In 2008, Morsette began designing props and costumes for “Saturday Night Live.” Her first assignment — a barrel costume for Will Forte to don during an episode of “Weekend Update” about the stock market crash – fell into her lap when a member of the show’s crew needed a barrel and knew Morsette had crafted one previously. She made it in less than 24 hours.

Through “Saturday Night Live,” Morsette received assignments for “30 Rock,” the show that gained momentum from former SNL stars, including Tina Fey and Jason Sudeikis.

“To see your stuff on stage and on screen is very rewarding,” Morsette said.

For the past 11 years, Morsette has designed one-of-a-kind teddy bears for an auction hosted by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Her bears, dressed in costumes from various musicals including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Camelot” have raised $43,000 to help actors, crew members and productions in need.

“Everyone’s working towards a great product,” Morsette said of the show business community. “We’re all shooting towards the same goal.”