New York Film Locations

It's Not New York City

18 September 2012

Over the past 10 years, there has been an increasing amount of TV shows and Films that are set in New York, but actually shot in alternative cities to look-like New York, or even worse, shot with the help of a blue-screen. OTSONY has been investigating and found some of the worst examples of CGI New York backdrops.

Starting with the 2011 romantic drama Beastly starring Alex Pettfer, Vanessa Hudgens and Mary-Kate Olsen. The film is a modern-day take on the "Beauty and the Beast" tale where a New York teen is transformed into a hideous monster in order to find true love. When films that are shot in Montréal, Canada and the filmmakers want the audience to believe that it is actually shot in New York City, they often include convincer scenes. These scenes are normally made up of skyline images or sweeping shots over the city. It helps to give reference to the city as the skyline of Manhattan is so famous. Unfortunately, the real giveaway comes when the scene cuts away to a dusty alley that looks nothing like New York City.

(Film: Beastly)

The main reason for shooting films in Canada is to keep the costs down, and in the case of Beastly, the filmmakers opted for the blue-screen backdrop effect, which was also used in the US television shows, Heroes, White Collar, Nikita, Touch and 24. Scenes are played out on studio sound stages in front of large blue screens or walls, which during the post-production stage are replaced with out-of-focus New York City skyline backdrops. It means that the filmmakers do not have to pay for New York film permits or rent properties within the city. The crime TV show, White Collar is actually shot on the streets of New York City for real, although the apartment scenes for Matt Bomer’s character Neil Caffrey are shot on a soundstage. The clues are obvious to see when you consider that the actual property in question is only three- storey’s high and located on the corner of Riverside Drive and West 107th Street, and yet when the character walks out onto the roof balcony, the back drop shows the entire Manhattan skyline, which is simply not possible.

(White Collar Apartment: 351 Riverside Drive, Manhattan)

In the 8th season of the TV show 24, starring Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, Director of Field Ops for the Counter-Terrorist Unit, who races against the clock to subvert terrorist plots and save his nation from ultimate disaster, the audience was told that the new headquarters for CTU was on Roosevelt Island. This again was untrue. Everything was shot in Los Angeles, California, which was the same for TV show, Touch. In an attempt to convince audiences that the character of Kiefer Sutherland was in New York City the makers went one step further and superimposed him inside the Grand Central Terminal.

(TV Show: 24)

The TV show, Friends was set in New York City, but was shot on Stage 24 at the Warner Brothers Burbank Studios in California. The apartment building in Greenwich Village that was closely associated with the show and that fans stand in front of on a daily basis for a keepsake photograph was never actually used. Film companies such as Warner and Fox store video footage in their archives of buildings and streets during all four seasons and will often use them for films and TV shows to save time in production. A perfect example that has been used numerous times is the sweeping shot over the Brooklyn Bridge leading off to the skyscrapers in lower Manhattan.

(Friends Apartment: 80 Bedford Street, Manhattan)

The list of films shot in Canada is continually growing and recent projects have included Max Payne, Elegy, Noel, P2, Kick-Ass and The Terminal.


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