Released in 2009 as a pair of free, downloadable podcasts by the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, "Made in NY": Walking Tours of Film and Television in New York City
seems to address two types of listening walkers: tourists and industry employees. The tours (available here
), narrated by actors Julianna Margulies and Matthew Modine, showcase how Lower Manhattan can serve as a diverse, adaptable and rich filming location. Largely devoid of critique, and only occasionally interpretive in their commentary on certain films and sites, the tours have an undifferentiated and almost promotional tone. No explanation is offered as to why certain films were selected for inclusion rather than others, though one might reasonably imagine that each featured production had some meaningful collaboration with the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting. This isn't the case, though; many of the films whose locations are included predate the founding of the Office in 1966. Variety, versatility and pedigree seem to be the three advantages of Lower Manhattan that the tour aims to showcase through its selection and analysis.
The tour begins not with a filming location, but outside the Tribeca Cinemas
, the headquarters of the Tribeca Film Festival
, underlining the area's strong ties to the film industry. The three following stops represent the full spectrum of locales visited on the tour. The distinctive, historical firehouse that served as the titular spectral pest removal start-up company's headquarters in Ghostbusters
(1984) is evidence of the area's architectural richness. This is followed by the formerly empty, currently under construction lot at North Moore Street and West Broadway
, where more or less complex sets were constructed for It Could Happen To You
(1994) and Enchanted
(2007). Despite the area's exorbitant real estate values and densely packed street grid, its perpetual stock of vacant spaces can function similarly to a tiny studio backlot, hosting temporary buildings or structures for the duration of a film shoot, an accelerated and highly localized version of New York City's often-frenetic pace of construction, demolition and rebuilding. A few blocks south, the Odeon
signifies a certain cultural clout: good taste, significant means, and subcultural belonging. In addition to brief appearances as an artist hang-out in two films the restaurant is also cited as the birthplace of the Cosmopolitan, affording one of only three allusions to a television program (the others being to Law & Order
and Spin City
) on a tour that supposedly covers television and film shooting locations; the drink eventually became famous in part due to its frequent and conspicuous consumption on Sex and the City
. This interesting but almost misleading aside–no actual filming locations from that show are featured, though many could have been–highlights one of the tour's problems: its lack of curatorial direction and transparency.
There is a certain reading of New York City implied in the podcasts, but it's difficult to discern because it conforms so well to the city's manicured pro-tourism, pro-business facade under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose administration commissioned this project. In this sampling of the four first locations, for instance, the podcast cites a corporate-sponsored film festival ("nearly half a billion dollars in economic activity," we're told), a popcorn blockbuster from the 1980s, a romantic comedy from the 1990s, a modern fairy tale by Disney from the 2000s, a big-budget 1980s drama and a segment from a prestige omnibus film featuring shorts by three award-winning New York City directors. Films cited elsewhere range from very recent movies that barely aspire to mediocrity (Hitch
) and obscure film history references (1903's Panorama Waterfront and Brooklyn Bridge
) to critically acclaimed works both recent (25th Hour
) and not so recent (Annie Hall, 12 Angry Men
). This selection emphasizes variety over quality–conspicuously absent, for instance, is Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver
(1976), which makes terrific use of New York's streetscape, albeit quite often as a space defined by crime and sin. Much like the Mayor whose office produced them, the podcasts present a sanitized, friendly and often grandiose version of New York, a cinematic montage carefully edited together from judicious fragments of the city's filmic history. Romance, wonder and the supernatural are recurring tropes, but so are noble bureaucrats, heroic police officers, and all-powerful businessmen. The New York of "Made In NY"
is open for business and crisscrossed by security networks, a tension between control and lenience explored in too few of the films whose shooting locations are visited.