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Location shoot at Bar Matchless (Manhattan and Driggs Avenues)

Some Cheers, More Jeers for City’s Film Hot Spot List

With the release of the most recent Hot Spot List, many Greenpoint businesses are raising concerns about losses, some as high as $25,000, they will suffer by losing lucrative film location shoots. The Hot Spot List identifies outdoor areas that are deemed off-limits for filming by the Mayor’s Office on Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, which issues permits to the many movie and TV companies operating in the City.

As it stands now, the list covers vast swathes of Greenpoint, from McGuinness Boulevard to West Street between Commercial and Calyer Streets and from Greenpoint Avenue to Driggs Avenue between Manhattan and Kingsland Avenues.

Film and TV producers pay businesses about $5,000 a day for use of their spaces. Shoots can last anywhere between a day and a week, and producers tend to frequent the same locations four to five times each year, especially with episodic television shows.

“We couldn’t have survived without the filming,” said Chris Timbrell, co-owner of Café Grumpy. “We operate from a mostly industrial zone so film productions help raise our profile and generate income. Since they stopped filming we have lost out on income and publicity.”

Timbrell said the last time the restaurant and the area surrounding it was used as a filming location was in November 2013, just a month before the list went into effect.

Film producers too have to make changes at the last minute – rearranging schedules, and finding alternate shooting locations – as they are not privy to the list before it is officially released.

Jamie Crowell, a producer on the CBS drama, Unforgettable, said that Hot Spot lists tend to disrupt the continuity of the production – after establishing a specific outdoor setting and location for a character – the hot spot list then forces producers to look for other locations that don’t necessarily ensure the same look to the production.

“We try to keep residents happy and support as many local businesses as possible,” said Crowell, who makes donations to local business and neighborhood block associations. “We do have an impact on the neighborhood. We do our best to be courteous and considerate. We really try to make it worth their while as best as we can.”

Local institutions have lost out on crucial funding as well. Father John Merz, the vicar at the Church of the Ascension said the large parish hall was often used as a holding room for film equipment bringing in $1,200 a day, on average, and the exteriors of the church too were used as a filming location, until the requests abruptly stopped.

“The money helps and is instrumental in continuing to allow the church to run and do outreach work,” said Merz. “It is a bit shortsighted and small-minded to turn film productions away. It ignores the business and benefit it brings to the community.”

Some local residents however believe the economic benefits are outweighed by the inconveniences imposed on them by the almost daily film shoots. The most frequent complaints against film companies have to do with parking spaces and street access being blocked by film trucks working at location shoots.

A Facebook group, Film complaint 11222, was created in 2012 to invite concerned residents to post comments and pictures about inconvenience caused by film productions filming in and around their blocks. The group currently has 57 members.

Where disgruntled residents and film crews do concur however is on the lack of transparency involved in the process of creating the Hot Spot list. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment was not forthcoming in providing specifics for the process such as the time frame for how long each hot spot lasts, but added that it takes feedback from local elected officials, community boards, and the public.

“The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment strives to keep film and television productions running smoothly in the City both for the productions and the local community and routinely evaluates the frequency and size of production activity throughout the five boroughs,” said Marybeth Ihle, press secretary for the office. “Based upon various factors, such as the size and impact of productions, construction or road work, our office will temporarily restrict filming in certain areas that have been significantly impacted.”

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  1. Thank you for this well balanced article. I do find it strange that the Church of the Ascension is the spokesperson for local business. Every business owner I’ve spoken to on Manhattan Ave, which has to endure filming, has never mentioned any benefits, they are usually irate as to the disruption. The quid-pro-quo that the film industry forces on churches is troubling. It has been reported that Greenpoints own Broadway Stages has bundled donations of close to $100K from the film industry to Mayor de Blasio’s recent campaign. With this kind of money the industry should be making hefty donations to our churches with out requiring anything in exchange.

    Rolf Carle · Mar 10, 05:29 PM · #

  2. Thank you for this well balanced article. I do find it strange that the Church of the Ascension is the spokesperson for local business. Every business owner I’ve spoken to on Manhattan Ave, which has to endure filming, has never mentioned any benefits, they are usually irate as to the disruption. The quid-pro-quo that the film industry forces on churches is troubling. It has been reported that Greenpoints own Broadway Stages has bundled donations of close to $100K from the film industry to Mayor de Blasio’s recent campaign. With this kind of money, the industry should be making hefty donations to our churches with out requiring anything in exchange.

    Rolf Carle · Mar 10, 06:11 PM · #

  3. Re Mr. Carle’s comment:

    I do not appreciate your insinuation, thinly veiled at best, that there is a quid pro quo between local churches and the film industry, or that, even more strangely and patronizingly, it is somehow “forced” on myself or others. The film industry has brought Ascension both monetary benefits from shoots and holding in our church as well as offered donations of food and other items for our work to alleviate the suffering of the vulnerable in the community: this is a very real help for people with little to nothing. I have partnered with many other businesses in the neighborhood besides the film industry and I would never assume that their efforts at working with us are cynically motivated. Any local industry has effects on our shared community life. However, the question is how we work together positively to find commonality and solutions to issues before rather than implying unsavory motivations and employing other forms of hyperbole. This kind of thing is not good for community.

    Rev. John Merz · Mar 12, 03:46 PM · #



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