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Op-Ed Sunday: Film Crews in Sunnyside

Every Sunday, the Sunnysidepost will publish an Op-Ed written by a member of the community pertaining to a topic of interest.

This week, a Sunnyside resident who works in the film industry responds to recent comments pertaining to an article about a tree branch that was knocked down by a film crew during the shooting of Blue Bloods. That article can be found at the following link.

Anyone interested in writing an Op-Ed, please forward your article to [email protected]

(Photo: George Burles)

March 30, 2014 By Sarah Maine

As a long time resident of Sunnyside and a member of the film crew that was shooting in the neighborhood on Thursday March 13th, I was saddened by the aggression present in many of the comments which followed Christian Murray’s article detailing the downed branch.

New York City is one of the most dynamic, exciting, beautiful and romantic cities in the world, characteristics that have drawn a continuous flow of new residents to our boroughs for centuries. They are also the characteristics that draw writers and film makers to use the city as a back drop for their tales.

There have been countless times when, as a proud New Yorker, I’ve been dismayed by films and TV shows using LA, Vancouver or Toronto as stand ins for the Big Apple. I get a sinking feeling watching those shows because I know that they represent lost jobs for New York City. On the other hand I’ve had many proud moments watching films and television shows when I’ve seen my city, the real New York City, and even my own neighborhood on screen.

I challenge you not to feel at least a little bit excited when you glimpse a familiar block in your favorite New York based shows.

The film and television industry supports 130,000 jobs in New York City and brings in around 7 billion dollars a year. Although crew members may not shop very much during the shooting day, we are doing our jobs after all, we are paid to work not to browse in stores, there is a river of money that flows into the city from all of us working in the film and television industry.

Take Sunnyside for example. Sunnyside is a peaceful, friendly, affordable middle class neighborhood; characteristics that make it an attractive place to live for many actors, directors and technicians. I am one of many film workers that make Sunnyside my home.

The living wage that we make as film workers allows us to live in nice places like Sunnyside. Three years ago I took a break from working in film and I had to cut back drastically on my discretionary spending. I spent that time working in a different industry, one that could not pay me very well and the difference in the amount of money I was able to spend in Sunnyside was stark.

Since returning to the industry last fall I have been able to spend a lot more money in the neighborhood, patronizing restaurants, specialty food stores, and other local vendors, something that I have always felt is important, I love supporting businesses in my community. But my personal spending is but a drop in the bucket. The cumulative effect of the dollars brought into New York City by the film business is much larger.

Film and TV productions spend money in a thousand different ways and New York State tax incentives encourage us to shop in state. We acquire furniture, clothing, make up and hair supplies, camera equipment, lighting equipment, catering supplies, trucking equipment, lumber and paint and many other things that it takes to make a production company function. We rent stages and locations, pay tolls and buy gas, and when we are on location many of us eat in local restaurants.

Queens in particular is the home of prop rental houses (some recently relocated from Manhattan), theatrical lumber and hardware suppliers, union halls, the Museum of the Moving Image, Silver cup Studios, and Kaufman Astoria studios, the oldest film studio in the Unites States. Queen’s film heritage predates Hollywood and has been sustaining working class families for a century.

Decorators, prop masters, gaffers, grips, camera crews, carpenters and scenics all have long standing relationships with their vendors in New York. These are business relationships that often develop into friendships, the thing that pulls us all together and makes us a community.

I have met vendors who told me that their film business customers carried them through the recession, without those film dollars they would have had to close up shop. In tough times when regular people are cutting back, production companies can keep spending, this is no small thing.

I know that a film crew in your neighborhood means less parking for that day, and you might have to cross the street while they are rolling. But this is a city, a complex community where lots of things are going on all the time. In the big picture the inconvenience that may be caused by a film crew falls into the same category as getting stuck in between stations on the subway, crawling along in your car behind a sanitation truck that is stopping every ten feet, and construction sites shutting down streets and sidewalks. These things are all annoying but we put up with them because we live in New York, a living, breathing, working metropolis.

In the comments of Mr. Murray’s piece someone mentioned that film companies should provide alternative parking under the 7 train. We don’t have the power to arrange that but your council person may. That is an issue to take up with his or her office.

In fact the best way to deal with any concerns you have related to a film crew in your neighborhood is to contact your council person or the Mayor’s Office of Film,Theater and Broadcasting (MOFTB). The film industry is such a vital part of our municipal economy that we have an agency dedicated to managing its presence in the city. The MOFTB also provides reports on the impact of the industry on the city’s economy. The 2013 report is available for free at http://www.nyc.gov/html/film/html/news/2013report.shtml

I agree that there is always work that productions can do to better relations with the communities in which they work. This is something we in the film industry need to work harder at incorporating into our industry culture. Mr Murray’s article and the ensuing comments have generated quite a bit of discussion on set for the past few days, it is what spurred me to write this piece.

I felt that it was important to share information about an industry that can seem foreign and opaque to people on the outside. We are New Yorkers just like you, and sometimes after a long day of shooting in very hot or very cold weather (mostly very cold these days) we get home to our neighborhoods and we can’t find parking because a film crew has taken up all the parking. So we deal with it too, just like we deal with all the other frustrations that come with an address within the five boroughs of New York City.

Leaving angry comments on a local news blog about a production that is permitted by the city to operate in your neighborhood is not an effective way to create positive change. In the end we all want film productions to operate in the least obtrusive ways possible.

Some things, like the size and numbers of our trucks, probably won’t change, but if you have some creative ideas about improving neighborhood parking I encourage you to share those ideas with local and citywide officials so they can work with production companies to make the experience of shooting film and television in New York better for everyone.

These are my personal opinions, I do not represent Blue Bloods or any other production company.

email the author: [email protected]

34 Comments

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Tish

It is with interest I read this blog-particularly about the comment about taking it to Vancouver. I am a resident of Vancouver with two members of my family working in the industry. For the second time in less than eight months my neighbourhood has been disrupted as well. I appreciate and understand the money the film industry spends in my community, and the jobs it brings, however I do not beleive that there is sufficient respect demonstrated by the crews to the process of disrupting our lives-common courtesy, respect for other people’s property and functioning safely within the permits provided would go a long way towards making this easier for residents to handle.

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RefugeeFromBourgeoisBrooklyn

Okay, I really would have thought my previous comment would have been moderated out.

I will never forget the night production assistants tried to keep me and other people from leaving a major subway station late at night after I, and they, were coming home from a long workday. I would not care if another location shoot were ever carried out in New York City.

The sense of entitlement and privilege that location shoots have in New York is so out of proportion. I can’t see how any income the city receives is worth the diminution in quality of life.

There are enough talented carpenters in New York to build remarkable replicas of neighborhoods in the existing soundstages and film lots in the greater area. And frankly, if you really need a real city street, take it to Vancouver or Toronto.

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RefugeeFromBourgeoisBrooklyn

“I challenge you not to feel at least a little bit excited when you glimpse a familiar block in your favorite New York based shows.”

What are you, 10? Bite me.

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Sophia

@Sunnysider Yes, let’s get real! Repeated digressions from the topic under discussion weakens rather than strengthens your argument.

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Sunnysider

At Sophia sorry u didn’t like my comment but let’s get real. There are so many other things in our community that you can focus your anger on. Drug dealers, homeless people who use the streets as bathrooms, dog owners who don’t clean up after their dogs and people who just toss their garbage on the streets. Take a walk around Sunnyside one day and see the disgusting garbage EVERYWHERE . Don’t blame the film crews for this

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Oil. Beef, Hooked

O’Shea says “What do you expect them to say when you walk into their shoot? Are you polite when a stranger ransacks your office?”

I don’t know about your office but my office is indoors and on private property, not on a public street that the public paid for and is entitled to use.

I’m a big fan of ridiculous analogies and that one is a real winner. Thanks.

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Oldschool Sunnysider

Sarah, if you think that giving up a weeks worth of parking, along with associated noise and being told, rudely i may add, by some twenty-something that I am being denied egress/access to my own home is adequate compensation for “feel)ing) at least a little bit excited when you glimpse a familiar block in your favorite New York based shows” YOU ARE WRONG.
Production companies DO NOT SPEND ANY MONEY IN SUNNYSIDE or any other “locations”. That is what “craft services” is for. For those of you who do not know what “craft services” are….they are the caterers who provide “one the location” meals and beverages to the cast and crew…at no charge to them. The craft services corporations are in NO HURRY to source local vendors. Its all a very tidy and very unionized system where the final cost of stale bagels cost $6 each after all the costs are figured in.
Sarah…you make it sound like all the inconvenience and arrogance that the locals have to suffer is a blessing.
Yeah its a real blessing ton have trucks parked for days in front of your home, filled with guys making fifty dollars an hour to sit on their behinds and maybe work for 25 minutes a day. Lets not get into what they get paid for double, time-and-a-half and triple overtime.
THESE ARE OUR HOMES.
THIS IS OUR COMMUNITY.
THIS IS NOT MERELY A LOCATION.

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pathetic sheep

blah blah blah. Give me a break. We are supposed to just sit there and quietly deal with this just so that we can say ‘Hey, look it’s Sunnyside!!!’ when we see a scene on TV? That is hilarious. It means nothing.

We work hard all day too and deserve better treatment than your crews have shown: garbage, noise, lack of parking, etc.
What have you actually done for the community? Nada. Any monkey with a camera can videotape Sunnyside and put it on youtube, gaining more viewers than a half rate show like Blue Bloods has.

It is very different from being stuck on the subway, or in traffic, there is no comparison. Terrible analogy. As for free parking under the train whilst ye shooteth your drama, it’s nice to see you place the onus on us, instead of being progressive enough to say “Hey, you know what?! Wouldn’t this be a great compromise for the folks of X neighborhood? Let’s talk to those in power and make this happen for them. We are afterall inconveniencing them 3 nights in a row.” Imagine the problems in the parts of the city where there are no extra spots under a subway. What happens to those folks? Driving around for hours looking for spots, or, paying to park it somewhere else. Yes, a real benefit to the neighborhood.

You live here and dont know if our councilperson is a male or female? Makes me doubt your claim….

PS

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Sophia

@ Sunnysider If you live here and work here, good for you. But you are missing the point entirely on the rest of the argument. Don’t try to reduce it to the ridiculous–a broken branch–to make your point. Only fools fall for that smoke screen.

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Sunnysider

@sophia it is also a place where some of us actually live and work here. Not everyone works in a different place than where they live. There are inconveniences in life and if this is the worst one then we are pretty lucky. With what else is going on in our community a broken branch is the worst thing???.. Let’s put our thoughts and plans into stopping the burgarlys and drug dealing in our neigherhood . Focus on the real quality of life!

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Sophia

@ Sunnysideposthatesme Thanks. I see you didn’t drink the Koolade either.

Sarah Maine wrote a cogent piece, but the perspective is narrow and limited. Yeah, it is nice to see the city in movies and on TV. Always has been. I learn a lot about NYC history watching movies shot here.

But you seem to regard the place as a “location.”

It is not a “location” to the people who live here, it is the deeply intimate place in which we live our private, not our professional, lives. It is our place of rest, not work. We like quiet, ease, familiarity, stability and a sense of rootedness that gives us the confidence to be ourselves. That is what homes are for.

Because the city no longer makes anything to sell, the brilliant businessman our former mayor was decided to sell the city itself to whomever would pay. Public places, such as streets, triangles and plazas are filled with concessions instead of serving as places people mingle. Our homes are no longer just homes, they are backdrops for someone else’s money making venture–and we are not convenient for them. Our homes are now doing double duty and we have to bow out for strangers. It doesn’t build community, it disrupts it.

Your perspective is not the only one. Try to understand ours.

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House of O'Shea

@celtic bark
I read the article. The broken tree branch and incendiary comments that followed contributed to this piece.
@ oil
What do you expect them to say when you walk into their shoot? Are you polite when a stranger ransacks your office?

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Resident

Filming in Sunnyside, Queens is great win-win situation. However, film crews should be held responsible for the cost of any damage in the process of filming. I say, clean up the broken tree branch film crew, and pay for the damage you caused in the process of filming. That goes for any other damaged caused by filming, i.e., broken windows, cars destroyed, etc.

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South

I agree completely with @Sunnysider.

And to those that think the writing was condescending, I believe you’re confusing the word “condescending” with “factual”

Based on the comments on these “tree incident” articles, a lot of commentators revealed themselves to be totally ill informed about the nature of the film industry, and relied on spewing incendiary nonsense about parking and workers/trucks being from out-of-state. Sarah was just pissing on the fires you were trying to start. Bummer.

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Celtic Bark

O’Shea, maybe you should try reading the whole article and comments first. There’s a long history being discussed here and many different issues, not just the tree.

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House of O'Shea

Hmm, I thought this was ny ? Did anyone get a splinter from that downed tree branch?
Jeez, a tree branch gets an op-ed.

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Serious Question

Does anyone know how much Kaufman Studios paid to privatize and gate off an entire city street recently? Or was it simply handed over to a private company for free by our local politicians? Seriously, I don’t know the answer, does anyone else?

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Sunnysider

Great article Sarah. Keep up the good work and please continue your work in Sunnyside . Most of us love having Sunnyside in films and tv shows. Some people just love to moan about every little thing. Looking forward to seeing u all here again real soon. A true Sunnysider!

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Oil. Beef, Hooked

The TV crews can dish it out but they sure can’t take it.

If you want to improve the tone of the comments on here, Sarah, then perhaps your colleagues might try to improve their attitude and behavior towards the residents.

A little suggestion: try learning a few key phrases like “please” “thank you” and “excuse me” instead of barking orders at people like we work for you.

Great way to make your argument and improve community relations by insulting anyone with legitimate gripes and frustration as mean and unreasonable.

Having lived in the city for a half century now, I have encountered dozens of film shoots. With few exception, the crews are universally rude.

Is it really too much to ask that they observe a little common courtesy and manners like their parents should have taught them? That particular option is off the table, it seems.

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Sophia

Film crews are not the only group of people new to this neighborhood who tell natives to “get used to it, its good for you.” They just happen to be the subject here, but all these new groups, who are pursuing their own ends in a disruptive way, say the same thing.

In each case it is hopelessly rude, condescending, patronizing and ultimately sickening. Know this: In all of history when a huge number of new people come to a place it is called an “invasion.” Don’t for a minute think that because you are not carrying spears and cudgels that you are not invaders. You most definitely are. And you are welcome as all those in history.

You all have been fed a whipped concoction of marketing and advertising blather and we all know it as we know someone who has had too much to drink, you reek. Don’t try to tell us you love the “history” and “ambiance” here. Everything you do obscures the history, destroys the ambiance and harms the people who lived the history, to the point that many want to move away.

So good for you. Make your movies and spend your money. Don’t ask us to love you for it. We know better.

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Mary Caulfield

If the film crews live here in NYC then they should know how awful it is for drivers to be forced to park far from home, traversing long blocks alone at night or carrying heavy loads to and from the car.

As NYers they should know enough to use a public transportation or a paid parking lot on days they have to shoot in residential neighborhoods. You should be the ones walking blocks and blocks with heavy packages to get where you need to go.

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Artie Weiner

Sarah thank you for your thoughtful op-ed.
As the conversations go on film sets you should understand that first impressions go a long way. The first contacts most people have are with the parking goons, who place the traffic cones in the roadway usually 12 or 18 hours before the permits starting time. These same enforcers give the public a hard time with an attitude. The phone number for complaints that is on the permit is useless, when you call they placate you, but nothing gets corrected.
So now that I have had an altercation over parking, next come the trucks, vans, food tables, generators and double wide trailers, etc. but I still have a bad taste left from the day before. Yes I enjoy watching a TV program filmed in my neighborhood, but I do not appreciate being talked down to buy a member of the film crew.
I think the first thing any film crew (including parking people) should be taught us how to interact with the community.
As for generating income, I have never seen any money spent within the communities the filming is taking place, all we get are the disruptions.

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peoplelikeyou

Jeez are you annoying.
I can’t help but notice a slightly condescending tone in your article. I am not sure why you think you’re authorized to lecture Sunnysidepost readers and provide what you believe is “insight” into the film industry. I don’t get the point of your op-ed piece-are you attempting to justify the obnoxious, condescending tone that most of your “co-workers” show residents when they film in Sunnyside? Not being able to park outside your own home for 24 hours at a time is NOT like being stuck between stations on the subway and I’m not sure why you believe the two are similar.

I do not feel indebted to you or your “industry” for their decision to utilize Sunnyside for filming. As others have pointed out-and you have all but conceded-you and your fellow workers to not spend your $$ locally. As a RESIDENT, you spend your money the same way I do. But there isn’t any kind of upside for Sunnyside being used as a location shoot by various production companies and the attitude they bring with them on set is rude and often borderline hostile. And I consistently see massive trucks for HADDADs which is a Pennsylvania company as far as I know. So where’s the local love? There isn’t any. It’s a one way relationship-production companies use Sunnyside and Sunnyside ends up feeling used.

And what do people do when they feel used? They get fed up, which is why residents like me have taken to the boards to voice our complaints.

Lastly, I would like to remind all readers that it’s not illegal to walk through a film set. Asking me to move is a REQUEST, which, depending upon the way which I am asked, I will or will not accommodate. It is not legal for productions to block an entire sidewalk from pedestrians, no matter how much a PA yells at you that you must go around them.

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EA

I’m sorry but I use to see that tree out my window. Now I don’t. Now I see the broken pile of branches out my window …. Wait …. Ok, your lucky, I think my co-op clenad it up for you.
Yes I’m mad. Finding parking here is already a nuisance and it seems that there are more and more films and tv shows that found Sunnyside beauty and potential.
It’s becoming a bit much for this dog loving-yuppie-hipster.

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Dorothy Morehead

How about cleaning up the branch instead of leaving it on the sidewalk to further inconvenience/endanger the residents? A little common sense here, guys.

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Michael Kilpatrick

Keep on filming!! Sunnyside welcomes you! A small inconvenience at times, but no big deal!!

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Kramden's Delicious Marshall

PS Ms. Maine assumes that people haven’t already followed her suggestion to contact the local council member and other relevant authorities. From what I have heard from the councilman’s office, they have indeed received quite a lot of complaints regarding film/TV production in the neighborhood. Perhaps she is unaware that there was a recent local town hall meeting discussing this very topic and was reported here on SP.

Jimmy Van Bramer is a very astute politician and keeps close tabs on what his constituents are thinking so it’s highly likely that he and his staff are regularly tuned into this important local news site, contradicting her claim that negative comments here are ineffective. They certainly do not go unheard as her own rebuttal demonstrates.

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Kramden's Delicious Marshall

Perhaps Ms. Maine can explain why the film crews need to block off parking sometimes a full 24 hours or more before the first truck even shows up and hours before the stated times on the notices. And also, why they often park their vehicles and equipment in front of hydrants which isn’t just an inconvenience, it compromises our safety. She doesn’t address those issues because she knows very well the film crews are totally abusing their privileges and giving us the middle finger at the same time.

Ms. Maine writes: “Leaving angry comments on a local news blog about a production that is permitted by the city to operate in your neighborhood is not an effective way to create positive change.”

If it’s not an effective way then why did you take the time to write an extended comment for the same local news blog?

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Sunnysideposthatesme14

people bitching about a downed tree…and they call me crazy when I’m bitching about a guy who shits all over sunnyside..which ..I dunno..sounds like a bigger problem .

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JOR

Great to see the opportunity for OpEd pieces. Are there conditions re: topics, word count, etc.?

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Setecq

I appreciate the time you spent to write this thoughtful reply. There are a lot of ornery, profane, reactionary commenters here and everywhere online. Those folks certainly don’t represent this or any other community. There’s a rule of thumb that says online, 90% of people view silently, 9% comment, and 1% create. Good job being one the the 1%.

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