Filming movies in New York City Summer 2006 and fall 2010

Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper's Penguins
This was filmed in the fall of 2010. The weather was quite pleasant, but since the action was to take place in the winter, the production crew had to create snow and ice. Some foam pieces created drifts, plastic flakes were sprayed on large flat areas, and actual snow from a a snow-making truck was used in areas that would clearly be seen by the camera.






Disney's Enchanted
The story
I read about this one in our local paper - downtown express. The filming would be for three nites and on the same spot where other films were shot: the Ghostbusters headquarters building; It Could Happen to You in which Nicholas Cage gave a waitress a million dollar tip; and Zoolander with Ben Stiller and a Wilson brother.
The movie
Enchanted is Disney's first feature-length film to combine live action and animation since 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It stars Patrick Dempsey (from Gray's Anatomy) as a NYC divorce lawyer who falls for a princess named Giselle (Amy Adams) who was banished from her 'magical, musical, animated land and dropped into the gritty reality of NYC' by the evil queen (Susan Sarandon). The cast also includes James Marsden as the Prince and Idina Menzel (the wicked witch in the original cast of Wicked) as the girlfriend of the attorney. The music is by the same composer who wrote the music for Wicked. The movie premiered in November, 2007. It is excellent - a clever story, good Disney characters and incredible special effects of combining the animated and live action.
The filming
There were blocks of trucks and equipment, lights on many of the buildings, and lots of people working on the set. This one blocked traffic - cars and pedestrians - while filming short scenes. The streets were sprayed down - the scene was to take place right after it rained. The next nite would be the rainy scenes. There was a truck marked Aerial Water waiting in the next block.

Lights up on cherry picker booms. The far one (the lower of the two) also had a lightning thingy that flashed to simulate lightning - it lit up the whole area. Some of the wind fans ready for the rainy scene and a somewhat confused businessman wondering what is going on.

The lady in white is Amy Adams, the princess banished to NYC by the Susan Sarandon wicked witch. The iPod posters show up in the movie.

The set - a billboard for the Palace Casino, 'Where Dreams Do Come True', the princess is below the castle entrance. The princess sees the billboard and thinks it may be the way for her to get home. Another view - in the background, to the left of the bright light, is the Ghostbusters headquarters building.


The Ghostbusters building where Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts worked. This is still a working fire station - the plaque to the left of the arched entrance honors the one firefighter from here who died on 9/11. The sign from the movie hangs inside.

Spiderman III
The story
I was walking through Foley Plaza where the Federal courthouse is. That is the building with the large wide staircase that the Law & Order prosecutors walk down at the end of each episode. In the middle of the plaza was a small stage with an arch over it and a wooden banner that read, 'Thank you Spiderman'. I asked someone who looked like he should know, "Is this for the real Spiderman or just for a movie?" He stared at me for a second and let me know it was for a movie - Spiderman III. They were just now building the set; filming wouldn't begin here for another week. A few days later I noticed many cables running along the curb and that many of the buildings had stage lights on the sidewalk aimed up at the walls. I asked a guard (there are post-9/11 security guards all over the city) who mentioned it was for the Spiderman movie and pointed to the flier (film crews have to post notices in the neighborhoods where they film). Filming would be that nite. Cool.

The filming
Electricians replaced the NY street lights with their own fixtures. These were custom made to fit inside the standard lights but they had a different color-corrected lamp and their own cable to the control tent. The cables were taped down the side of the pole opposite the camera. The cables entering the fixture at the top might show on camera but no one ever seems to notice or care. Every light (and there were hundreds) had its own cable to the control tent (well, groups of lights on a background building were grouped together on one dimmer).Its all about control. The lighting designer needs to be able to dim each lamp independently to provide just the right look for the film.
Swoopy flying scenes
The dramatic scenes in the Spiderman movies where Toby Keith (that doesn't seem right - who plays Spiderman - isn't it Toby Keith?, its Toby somebody) swoops through the city streets are filmed by remote control. Amazing. A cable was strung between two buildings in downtown Manhattan. These buildings are about 70 stories tall and the cable stretched overhead for several blocks (I can't imagine the difficulty of the logistics of stringing up a strong cable anchored at the tops of two buildings and hoisting it up over several city blocks). From that cable a trolley could move along. From that trolley the camera was suspended on another set of cables. The camera could move up and down on that set of cables. The pictures below show some technicians working on the camera, the camera (dead center in the pic) being raised, a close-up of the camera, and the camera (the white blob) up in the sky. Under a nearby tent, several people were focused on their Apple laptops. There were laptops all over the set - the lighting tent had some, the camera control, and the people coordinating the shoot. So, the buildings were lit up for several blocks around because they would show up in the swooping scenes. The camera trolley would move along one cable and the camera would move up and down on another. This allowed the swooping motion. The camera could even be turned (for when Toby-somebody looks around) as it swoops.


The restaurant scene
Another scene being filmed at this spot was at the Constellation Restaurant (shown below) The second picture shows some of the actors waiting for their scene to be filmed. The women were talking about the latest dish on Tyra and Naomi and other models. The black drape to the left of the picture is there to block some of the light coming from the drugstore which is across the street from the Constellation. There were also taxis and other cars lined up down the street awaiting their cue. The rest of the pictures show various lighting setups, and some of the many people that were working on this set, including off-duty police and city utility people. The last picture is of the crew working the camera which is behind the guy in the red sleeves. The carts held the computers and controls to operate the camera.




The normal city block before and after as dressed for the movie set. Set dressing elements include the awning, decorative panel over the door, name plate on either side of the door, a floor mat on the sidewalk, and a newspaper box for the Daily Bugle off frame to the left. The light fixtures had special movie lamps installed inside.

A couple of weeks later, I was walking to get lunch at Chipotle and, right there in my naberhood, was the Spiderman crew setting up again for another shoot. I took a few pix, went back with Vegas about 7pm and shot a few more and then returned about 9pm.


The cables that run up to the street lamp are taped on the off-camera side of the pole. A huge semitrailer full of racks of costumes and a laundry room at the back. A dressing room trailer. Notice the traditional homey doors. Several others, probably for the stars, were single use pull-out style trailers that were the size of a small apartment.

Equipment lined up next to Liberty Tower next to the WTC site. Looking towards the WTC hole.
There were trucks parked along several city blocks, equipment all over, and numerous crew people. One scene took place in a small passageway between two buildings - I couldn't see much - just the bright light emanating from the narrow walkway and the hordes of cast and crew milling about on the closed-off street. The picture below looks a lot like Tobey, the star. But its not. I talked with him later that night - he is Tobey's Personal Stand-in Assistant. He said Tobey would not be in a scene until later that night. But they broke for 'lunch' at 10pm and wouldn't film his scenes until later - I went home to bed. The pic on the right is of the director's monitors. I shot it through the window of a cafe where I had dinner.

The stunt sidewalk
On Church Street, a crew was gluing a fake sidewalk over the real sidewalk. The fake one matched the color and lines of the real one. The fake one contained a puddle and it was being glued over something - so I don't know if something will come through the sidewalk or they just needed a controlled reflection in the puddle.



The 'normal' sidewalk, after the film crew cleaned up and left.
The cycle chase scene
Another scene apparently involves a motorcycle chase in which the rider gets thrown off, blown up, crashed or something. The stunt crew was rigging a stuntman into a harness suspended from a truss on the back of a truck. In the pix below you can see the cycle seat and handlebars, the camera, and the apparatus to lift the rider off the bike.


The above pictures were shot in the early evening. I suspect the stuntman here is just for a technical rehearsal - to get the timing, speed, and other details worked out. The pictures below were from the rehearsal with the whole scene later that night

The stuntman here looks much more like Tobey. You can see the cables from his harness that will pull him up.

You can also see one cable going to the upper left - this one pulls off his helmet in the other direction. The guys that pull the rope down to raise the stuntman.

The water truck in the background drove ahead of the camera truck to wet the streets.

This is Church Street. The back of Trinity Church (hence the name of the street) is on the left, the subway entrance is one I use a lot and I often eat at Cafe World behind the green globe on the right. My apartment building is 4 blocks to the right. The small blank building in the far background is the back of the Men In Black headquarters building.
Many cars and taxis were in the scene. I had talked to one of the drivers. They are professionals - men, women, different ages and ethnics - they got instructions from crew on the sidewalks. After each take, the entire line of cars (in both directions) would back up to their starting point. It was fascinating to watch.

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