DAILY NEWS: Getting Back to Business, Nearly Two Weeks Later
by Eugene Hernandez and Anthony Kaufman/indieWIRE
>> NYC Film Productions Still Sputtering; Mayor’s Office: “Back to Normal Shortly”
(indieWIRE/09.24.01) — Last Tuesday, a week after the attacks on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting (MOFTB) began issuing shooting permits for film and television work only in New York’s outer boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx
and Staten Island. According to a statement on the MOFTB’s website on
Friday, “Permits for New York [City] continue to be suspended until further
On Friday, the agency’s Commissioner Patricia Lee Scott told indieWIRE, “We
expect to get Manhattan on tap as soon as possible on a limited basis,” but
indicated that no productions will be allowed south of Houston Street. “We
don’t want to get in the way,” she added.
While Scott said her “best estimate” was that permits would be issued by
September 30, some productions could be getting shooting dates by this week.
“We keep a grid of what’s happening, get bids from productions and try to
accommodate as much as we can,” Scott explained.
According to Scott, film production in the city was at a slow pace as a
result of last spring’s pre-strike shooting crunch. “It was a lucky break,
in a way: the threatened strikes pushed all of our big features to finish
between January to June, so we’d done a year’s work in six months,” she
However, a handful of independent productions have been affected. With only
5 days left in a 27-day shoot, production was suspended on writer-director
Peter Sollett‘s feature debut, an adaptation of his award-winning short film
“Five Feet High and Rising.” The Sept. 11 attacks hit just as Sollett and
crew were about to get first shot of the day. As of last Friday, 10 days
after the tragedy, they were still waiting to resume filming at an apartment
building on the Lower East Side.
“We were shooting with kids and our first concern was people’s safety and
emotions. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who was in the [World Trade
Center],” Sollett’s producer Scott Macaulay told indieWIRE. “We obviously
couldn’t continue shooting.” According to Macaulay, a lot of Sollett’s crew
actually made the trip to “ground zero” to volunteer; grips joined the
bucket brigade and their caterer provided craft services.
Their crew was not alone. According to Commissioner Scott, many union
members of Motion Picture Studio Mechanics Local 52 joined the relief
effort; from stagehands and gaffers, grips and craft services, they have
offered their expertise without pay since the attacks.
One of the other independent productions shooting around town was Greg Pak‘s
“Robot Stories,” which began filming on Monday, September 10. While they
were shooting in Brooklyn on the morning of the 11th, the film’s production
offices on Fulton Street and Broadway felt the impact of the World Trade
Centers’ collapse. According to line producer Karin Chin, many of their
staff “barely survived” escape from the office and are “still traumatized by
Unlike Sollett’s film, “Robot Stories” resumed production the day after the
attacks in their Brooklyn location. Pak told indieWIRE, “It was tough, but
it felt right in some ways to do something positive. At the same time, I
haven’t processed all of this.”
The “Robot Stories” team has since relocated their production office to the
producer’s apartment, and is still waiting to recover wardrobe, props and
editing equipment from their Fulton Street headquarters. They had scheduled
some shooting days in Manhattan this week, but like Sollett’s shoot, they
are looking at other options for exteriors, either in New Jersey or Queens.
“It’s been so difficult,” commented Chin. “Because there were so few
features filming, we weren’t sure what to do.”
Several Gotham-based independent companies were not filming and only
suffered slight production setbacks. Hart/Sharp (“You Can Count on Me“) was preparing deliveries for “Lift,” GreeneStreet stopped post-production
momentarily on “swimfan” and Killer Films continued its prep for Todd Haynes new film, shooting later this fall.
“We will be back to normal shortly and nobody has lost a lot of ground,”
Commissioner Scott told indieWIRE. “The film community is able to move
smartly and swiftly.”
On the MOFTB website, a recent memo by New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani
claimed, “Our $2.5 billion feature film and television industry continues to
work on stages. I am also very proud that the construction of the largest
group of soundstages on the East Coast is proceeding at the Brooklyn Navy
Yard. We are determined to return our city to normal as quickly as
“People really want to come back to work,” commented producer Macaulay. “At
different times, it seemed like we might be shooting again, and we asked the
cast and crew, ‘Are you ready to come back?’ And people really wanted to
come back to their daily lives.” [Anthony Kaufman]
>> indieWIRE DISCUSSION: “Now more than ever we need artists”
(indieWIRE/09.24.01) — “If we the independent film community, the whole odd
grab bag of us, want to contribute beyond cash and blood, we should
contribute our voices, writing and skills to coming to terms with what
happened,” filmmaker Steven Bognar wrote in indieWIRE’s discussion board
about the tragic events of September 11th. Last week we created the
discussion board on the indieWIRE site, offering an opportunity to discuss
the aftermath of the September 11th tragedy. Our readers have weighed in
with insightful and often inspiring personal thoughts.
At the same time, since the tragedy we have consciously avoided much of the
daily biz news that is regularly included in indieWIRE’s news section —
honestly, our hearts and minds haven’t been in it. We’ve been more focused
on our friends, our family and our city than on the deals and news that
drive the business of film.
As we have spent time digesting what has happened in our hometown, we’ve
also spent time looking at how our loose community of colleagues and readers
have been affected. Along the way, a few news stories have crossed our path.
Until now, it hasn’t really felt appropriate to pursue them. Tomorrow, we’ll
publish our first selection of “regular” news items, while we continue to
consider and examine the impact of the tragic events.
“Now more than ever we need artists who will help us to wake up from our
sleep of unreality. Who will tell us the truth about our lives, our
emotions, our culture, and our world. Painful and hard truths at times;
joyous and celebratory truths at others,” writer Ray Carney posted in the
indieWIRE board this weekend. “We need our artists to help us understand
what we are and what we can be. It is time to get on with our work. It
matters now more than ever.”
We at indieWIRE look forward to our community getting back to work and we
are anxious to learn about the stories and ideas that bloom from this
challenging period. [Eugene Hernandez]
>> YESTERDAY in indieWIRE DAILY NEWS: Movie Theater Benefit; “Go Tigers” Sticks to Release
(indieWIRE/09.24.01) — Movie theater owners from around the country
are putting aside financial concerns and their competitive nature to
assist in the relief effort; This weekend, IFC Films will release “Go
Tigers!” Kenneth A. Carlson‘s documentary about the Massillon Tigers, a high school football team striving to better their season and save
their school; And, iW invites you take a moment to join other members
of the community to offer your thoughts or perhaps pose a question or
idea that we all can consider regarding the relevance of the arts in
light of recent tragic events.