By Bill Parry
More than 10,000 movie buffs made their way to the Kaufman Astoria Studios Sunday when the Hollywood-style gates were thrown open to the public for “New York On Location,” a free daylong street fair that offered a behind-the-scenes look at film production. While storm clouds threatened, the only rain that fell on the backlot were man-made, produced by the studio’s special effects people.
“I think it’s awesome, a great opportunity for the average people to see what goes into the magic of film,” KAS Vice President Tracy Capune said. Over 20 working movie trailers and trucks were parked along the backlot and 35th Avenue and visitors were allowed looks inside.
There was a makeup demonstration featuring a young man transforming himself into an old woman. Stunt performers demonstrated street fighting, high falls and high-speed car maneuvers. The latest in camera, lighting and sound equipment were also on display.
Visitors were able to speak directly with movie professionals about what they do on set. “It’s a fun and engaging way for families and kids to experience what goes on behind the scenes,” KAS President Hal Rosenbluth said.
Laura and Stan, a couple from Astoria, watched the stunt drivers, saying they had walked past the massive studio all the time. “We always wondered what went on in here,” Stan said. “They don’t normally do tours here so it was nice that they opened it up.”
Two young women from Denmark, Alberte and Amalie, said it was the first time they had ever been inside a film studio. They were among 30 riders taking part in a Bike The Big Apple sight-seeing outing run by the bicycle-riding tour guide Jesse McDonough.
“They wanted to see the studio and that’s just fine by me,” McDonough said. “People usually want to see the sights in Brooklyn and Manhattan but Queens is generating more interest these days.”
Mary Beth Fox came from Brooklyn with her husband Joe and their two young children.
“I’m a casting director with Teamsters Local 817,” she said. “It’s been fun to show my family what the industry is like, what Mommy does for a living. They found it fascinating.”
Omar from Elmhurst said his favorite part was the special effects demonstration. “They had a rainstorm on one side of the street and a snowstorm on the other — that was really cool.”
Kelly from the Bronx said, “I had no idea they had a full-blown movie studio in Queens. It’s really pretty amazing to see.”
“New York On Location” reminded a young Manhattan couple, Michael and Bronwyn, of their home in Los Angeles.
“We’re both actors from L.A., so it’s a trip seeing a big gated film studio like this on the East Coast,” Michael said.
Nearly 7,500 visited the Museum of Moving Image next door, where the galleries were free all day. The film “Lights, Camera, Astoria!” was screened and there was a martial arts demonstration in the George S. Kaufman Courtyard.
Throughout the Kaufman Art District, food trucks served up the type of fare that is provided on location. State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) vouched for the sandwich he got from a Startruck Catering and Treat truck.
“It’s called a Fat Pig Sandwich and it has roast pork, ham, bacon and garlic mayo–it’s delicious,” Gianaris said. ”This is a great event and hopefully it’s a sign of more to come. We live with the economic benefits this studio provides everyday. This is a way for the public to see what it’s all about.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.