Who needs a Girls tour bus? Finally, the diehard couch potatoes among us will be able to check out every haunt Ilana, Aziz or Lena have graced on their shows. And New Yorkers fed up with getting the hand from power-tripping PAs have some data-driven ammo when they complain there are too many film shoots in their neighborhood.
A few days ago WNYC displayed the graphic fruits of a data request for all the filming permits issued in New York from November 2011 to July 2015. It used the info to produce a nifty interactive heat map that shows how often different areas were permitted for filming– no surprise that North Brooklyn and the LES/EV areas are painted the full deep maroon of 52+ permits in that period. But then again, almost all of Manhattan is maroon (and there were more than 40,000 permits issued within a four-year period, so 52 seems kind of like a low bar).
The map also allows you to sort by some of the most popular TV shows, revealing that (duh) Girls spends a lot of time shooting in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, though they also fairly often skip over to the East and West Villages and, perhaps surprisingly, Kensington. Broad City seems to leave a pretty small footprint in comparison (it also has less seasons), mostly shooting in the Lower East Side and Chinatown, with a healthy dose of Williamsburg.
The map is fun to play around with, but if you really want to get into the nitty gritty, you can download the source data sets provided by the city to WNYC on Github. Data categories include info on the names of TV shows or movies with date of filming and exact cross streets of the shoot.
Apparently, the Mayors Office of Media and Entertainment had already been working with city partners to release the same info (and more) to NYC’s Open Data portal, in compliance with transparency laws. But according to Politico’s reporting, many thought the office seemed to drag its feet, despite pressure from groups like Reinvent Albany, which advocates for government transparency.
“The fact that the film shoot data was released by WNYC instead of MOME is embarrassing. If a data set can be FOILed, it is subject to the NYC Open Data Law,” the group wrote on its blog, referring to the Freedom of Information Law requests. “MOME should upload the spreadsheet(s) it sent to WNYC to the Open Data Portal as soon as possible.”
A spokesperson for MOME said the process took time and the data would be uploaded “very soon,” but couldn’t give me more details, other than saying that anything that could be FOIL-requested would be included.
Besides allowing obsessed people to make elaborate TV show scavenger hunts, the permit info will also give more ammo to anyone annoyed with the massive growth in TV-shows set in New York (according to one study, scripted TV shows have more than quadrupled since 2002, thanks in part to more studio spaces and new tax credits).
Now they’ll have precise data on how many shoots happen in a given area and how often, to compare with other areas around the city. As TV watchers, we love that so many shows are eschewing How I Met Your Mother type stage sets for location-based shoots, showcasing the streets we recognize, but it can also be a huge hassle when you’re constantly woken up by crews rolling up outside your window or your street is blockaded by film crews every other week and you have to trudge through the snow to find a different route.
Williamsburg and Greenpoint council member Stephen Levin has also pushed for more transparency on this issue. This morning he released a statement after reading the Politico article, saying he was grateful MOME was getting closer to “compliance with our open data laws.”
“Publishing data on where and when filming takes place in our city will help residents better understand the impacts, and benefits, this growing industry brings to our neighborhoods,” he said.
Greenpointers in particular have recently been complaining about the increase in filming shoots taking over their usually-sleepy streets, even calling for a ban on new permits. The neighborhood is home to many production companies and facilities, like Broadway Stages, and after Girls began hanging out at Grumpy’s, the area became even more popular.
Joan Branigan, pushing a walker, told Bedford + Bowery she has lived on Noble street for 30 years. She noticed the filming increase about two or three years ago and said she wishes the city would limit permits more. “I mean Greenpoint’s a great place but this is getting crazy, and it’s always in the same spots,” she said – especially the area around her block. “Like, you’ll come out and sometimes you have to go all the way around the block. Sometimes you can’t even cross. If they’re doing a film or something they’ll stop you […] I think that’s an inconvenience and I think that’s inconsiderate.”
Car owners also run into difficulties as they maneuver around big Haddad’s trucks hogging all the spots. Jessica Truncali, a resident in Greenpoint for five years, said she’s seen a few of her favorite stars in the area, like Alan Cumming, thanks to the filming boom. But she also owns a car and says even more than the distance she has to park, it’s the safety issues that bother her. When there’s lots of crews parked in her area at night, she dreads parking in an unpopulated area full of warehouses and walking home alone.
“I would think just limiting the number of nights that are in a certain radius, that could be blocked up, would be helpful,” she said. “It’s fine if it’s a night here or there, but more of a problem when it’s your typical evening.”
Of course, for some local businesses, losing the film crew traffic would be a big blow. Mubarez Mubaraz owns Brooklyn Standard on Nassau Street, a deli that stocks vegan items and other things that hipster film crews probably guzzle- like Stumptown coffee and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream. He estimates the film crew-traffic boosts his revenue about 15-25 percent a month.
“When they come in, they’ll come in droves, and we get a lot of delivery orders from them too, almost every day Monday through Friday,” he said. “I mean its like a huge plus having them here. [Losing location shoots] is not like just losing one customer, it’s like losing 10.”
He hoped that any issues with his neighbors could eventually be worked out. “If there are some complaints the residents have, maybe we could address them in a different way. Maybe there could be particular days or time that, you know, they won’t be disturbing our neighbors,” he said. “At the same time this is what makes New York or Greenpoint what it is.”