This past Sunday, May 22, Kaufman Astoria Studios, Museum of the Moving Image, Theatrical Teamsters Local 817 and I.A.T.S.E. Local 51 hosted “New York on Location,” an all-day street fair and celebration of the film and television industry providing Astoria with an unforgettable insight into the tremendous effort and dedication that goes into filming a movie or TV series in New York.
Friendly, experienced industry professionals, from camera crews, sound technicians, make-up artists and grips to stunt guys and gals were on hand to demonstrate their skills as well as answer any and all questions.
It’s only fitting that an iconic venue such as the Kaufman Studios built in 1920 was chosen to host this exciting event. The studio, in fact, was the original home of Paramount Pictures and over one hundred silent movies were filmed on its sound stage.
Currently, the studio is home to the hit series “Shades of Blue” starring Jennifer Lopez, “Sesame Street” as well as “Orange is the New Black.” A large portion of George Clooney’s new film, “Money Monster,” was shot on the studio’s sound stage and in the surrounding Astoria neighborhood.
On-location trucks and trailers circled their way around the entire studio complex, from 35th to 37th streets as well as 34th and 35th avenues. Free admission to the Museum of the Moving Image was included in the event.
Visitors were able to control the camera on a Taurus crane, which is used for aerial shots during filming. Stunt drivers and camera pros demonstrated how camera cars are rigged up to shoot fast moving car chase scenes.
One part of the 36th Street was assigned over to some very realistic weather effects. In the space of a couple of hundred yards, visitors could walk through mist, snow and an actual downpour. The rain was streaming over this writer’s umbrella.
Not far away, a crowd gathered to watch the fall guys, (an old Hollywood term for stunt pros), do their thing.
These brave men and women literally took the crowd’s breath away. Putting on quite a show, they threw themselves off of a thirty foot tower with only an airbag to cushion the impact.
Further down the lot, in the back garden of the Museum of the Moving Image, kids and their parents watched wide-eyed as stunt performers engaged in simulated fight scenes. Those punches and kicks looked much too close for comfort. In one of the parking lots, we watched, thankfully at a safe distance, as another stunt pro set himself on fire.
The hair and make-up trailers were offering everything that you needed to glam up your looks. Professional location stylists treated the kids to free face painting and hair extensions.
One of the longest lines was for the “Star trailer,” which is normally reserved for the lead actor or actress. This dressing room trailer was almost like being inside a luxury hotel room. It had all the comforts of home and then some.
Another highlight was the honey wagon–so very aptly named because it is in this trailer that things get done. This super long trailer consists of ten small cubicles. These nooks are the offices for the production’s director, associate producer and administrative staff. The men and women’s bathrooms here are playfully named Desi and Lucy, in honor of TV legends Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball.
Astoria’s fashionistas got a real kick out of exploring the massive wardrobe truck, which is literally a closet on wheels!
Next to the wardrobe trailer, a crew of grips took us through their truck, demonstrating how various props were used when on location. The grips are also responsible for helping to set up the location and break things down afterward.
One of the most fun things was getting to ride in the bucket seat on the dolly track. This is a long, wheeled platform on rails that helps to keep the camera steady for different street shots like close-ups or for following an actor as he or she walks along the sidewalk.
At the fair, you could even enjoy the very same burgers, fries, grilled chicken sandwiches and mac ‘n’ cheese that the cast and crew eat when they’re on location.
The next time that you see a location crew member on the street, hard at work, stop for a moment and say “Hi!” Without the location crews’ long days and nights, the magic that you enjoy watching at your local cinema would just not be possible.