Friday, March 17, 2006


The above picture by Chang W. Lee of a house in Queens being prepared for a movie scene was the accompanying photo of a New York Times article about the recent surge of TV and movie productions in New York City. It goes on to say that the film and television industry has become the fastest-growing source of employment, putting almost 10,000 New Yorkers to work over the past year alone. The reason is the 15 percent credit that production companies receive to shoot in New York.

I think that’s just swell. Really. But, however glamorous and lucrative this whole thing is, there’s the often unreported downside as well. That is, the inconvenience experienced by some residents during filming.

Like one early Sunday morning around 7:00 am, I was awakened by the annoying sound of a hovering helicopter. This may be common in South Central, Los Angeles, but definitely odd in my New York neighborhood. As it turned out, they were shooting a scene for another sequel of Bruce Willis’ Die Hard movie.

When I went out with my dog to buy the Sunday paper and some groceries to make breakfast, we had to wait almost half an hour before the production assistants allowed us to cross the street; same on our way back. It took them an entire day to shoot a scene which appeared less than a minute onscreen. Friends and other residents of Manhattan's Upper West Side faced an arduous task of commuting to work when the same film crew took over the 72nd Street subway station and its vicinity for more than two weeks. Bruce Willis, at that point, was losing the love of New Yorkers.

In another incident, my friend’s elderly parents were livid when they had to be told when they could leave and enter their apartment building when Woody Allen was shooting in their lobby and front steps for several days. Another friend was annoyed when Spike Lee was shooting a scene right in front of her Brooklyn ground floor apartment. She wasn’t allowed to open her windows or even peek out.

On tougher neighborhoods, residents would pump up the volume of their stereos and TV sets as soon as they hear the director’s cue for action. Others would purposely open their windows and stick their heads out, especially if they’re within camera range. This would make the producers shell out some cash to buy the residents’ cooperation.

In New York, at least, if someone (not a cast member) appeared quite prominently on camera and the production staff was unable to secure his or her signature on a release form, that person can sue the studio for using his/her image without permission and financial compensation. However, if it was a news item, the law does not apply. I found out about this accidentally and in a very embarrassing way.

It was a beautiful early spring day with the temperature hovering in the 60s. By 3:00 pm I faked illness; told my boss I wasn’t feeling well and needed to take off early to sleep it off. Concern was etched on his face and even suggested that I take a cab home while he pulled out some singles from his pocket to make sure I have change. I told him I have it.

My real intention was to enjoy the rest of that warm early spring afternoon outdoors. I walked up Fifth Avenue to 57th Street and then turned west to meet some friends at a neighborhood Italian bistro for some drinks and dinner. It was a lovely walk with most New Yorkers in a good mood.

Later on in the evening, at the bistro, everyone was having a wonderful time until my friend grabbed my shoulder and pointed at the TV monitor at the bar. On the screen was the local news’ weather report. For its backdrop, they used an earlier video of Fifth Avenue with me walking up nonchalantly from half a block away towards the camera. By the end of the report, my figure filled the entire monitor as I passed by the camera.

Unfortunately, my boss saw it also. After all, it was a segment of New York’s most popular local evening news. The next day, he walked over to my desk and in muted tone said that it was too bad I wouldn’t get any remuneration for my TV appearance. It was considered a news item. He sensed my discomfort and walked away without waiting for my response.

Later on that day, he didn’t come back from lunch. His secretary claimed he called from the restaurant to say he had gone home; sickened by the oysters he had for lunch. I knew better. It was spring fever like what I suffered from the previous day. Besides, they were filming a movie in his neighborhood with his favorite actress Kim Bassinger. It was a chance to see her in person and even get her autograph; if he were lucky enough.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 11:00 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The warm afternoon incident was such a funny coincidence that it could be an idea for a cool and funny TV adverstisement. It reminds me so much of scenes from that show "World's Funniest Commercials". To say, it's straight out of a Woody Allen New York movie (did he had a movie set outside New York?).

March 18, 2006 12:21 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I think starting with the movie, Match Point, Woody Allen will be filming a couple of more in London. It seems that was the stipulation imposed by his English financiers.

It was indeed funny but embarrassing, Major Tom. As luck would have it, some of my co-workers also saw that weather report, and got a kick from ribbing me about it for quite some time -- Eric the TV star :)

March 18, 2006 6:47 AM  

Blogger niceheart said...

I didn't know that you were a TV star. He he he. You must have had a nice time living in New York seeing all these celebrities.

March 18, 2006 12:26 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

an instant celebrity he he that's so funny! the boss was so infuriated he got so envious haha

March 18, 2006 2:54 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I don't know, niceheart, why the more embarrassing the situation is, the more people would seem to know about it. I was also getting phone calls from other people I haven't been in touch with to say they saw me on TV. They all had a good laugh when I told them I played hooky from work on that very day and got caught on camera.

Yes, NYC has a lot of celebrities. I will post an entry about it one of these days.

March 18, 2006 8:32 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

He wasn't so much infuriated about it, bingskee; actually, he seemed just as embarrassed as I was for having caught me :)

Seriously, he was such a nice boss that we often told him that he should have been an academic instead of a corporate executive. We loved him dearly.

March 18, 2006 8:40 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If more international films were shot here in Manila or Cavite then it would be great, not will get a chance to some stars but I'm more interested in the whole film making process. I want to see how it works, the crews, the special effects teams, the stunts, the director everything.

It's my dream job of being a filmaker, hehehe

But you're lucky your boss was not ticked off by your appearance on tv.

The last time I was on the TV was when tita cory and the Bukluran para sa Katotohanan held a presscon in De La Salle Greenhills, I was among the students standing behind the big politicians and personalities. I even stood between Satur Ocampo and Jinggoy Estrada, talk about standing between to opposing mountains.

March 20, 2006 9:58 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Undoubtedly, Jhay, you are the true TV Star, not I :)

Better you go to New York and study filmmaking at NYU than checking out some film crew do it on the streets; unless of course, you have a lot of free time to hang around.

One of my brother's friends in NYC was taking up graduate studies in filmmaking in Brooklyn many years ago. He's now quite a respectable local director -- Gil Portes.

March 20, 2006 11:24 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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