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10 Tips for Shooting Video in New York City

Posted by Rebekah Toth Burns on July 10, 2014

New York City is consistently the most scheduled location for all of Crews Control’s video shoots worldwide. Manhattan is the busiest location of the five boroughs for corporate video productions. It is 23 square miles and has a population of 1,626,159 as of 2013. So, logistics are always at the top of the need to know list when producing NYC videos. To make your next NYC video production a smooth one we’ve compiled ten tips from Crews Control’s Production Managers in combination with several seasoned New York area DP’s.

TEN: A two man crew is the minimum in the Big Apple. “The challenges of loading-in and finding nearby parking means a one man crew is nearly impossible since no one wants to unload their gear into a lobby, leave it there in a pile, and then go to park without a dedicated person to protect it” says Crews Control Production Manager Becky Holzman.

NINE: Map out all your video interviews and B-Roll locations prior to the shoot date. “If more than one location is involved, please allow proper travel time. ‘It’s only 2 blocks away’ can take much longer than expected” says Production Manager Cricket Capucci. Adam Shanker Crews Control represented DP and contributing blogger goes on to say “The last years of the Bloomberg administration created havoc for drivers by making pedestrian walkways. That meant closing Broadway through all of Times Square, and around Herald Square, as well as by the Flatiron building on 23rd and 5th avenue. Mayor Bloomberg also made bicycle lanes all over Manhattan, and many streets and avenues have been slimmed down leaving motorists to sit in congestion. I always give myself plenty of time to get to a shoot, but it’s something producers should be aware of and plan accordingly.”

EIGHT: Get the needed permits at the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. “If you are planning an outdoor production that is larger than a two person crew with a tripod, then you should contact the Mayor’s Office for Film and Video. Getting a permit is free, and they can even provide your crew vehicles with parking laminates. Individual cops don’t always know the NYC guidelines for shooting on the streets, but if you are armed with paperwork from the Mayor’s office, they can’t shut you down. You just need to advise them exactly when and where you will be shooting. You can send a PA to the office to pick up the paperwork in advance of the shoot” says Shanker.

SEVEN: Make sure everybody signs on the dotted line. “On a New York street everyone is a star, and they are all happy to talk to your camera. Just make sure you get a release because most of them are lawyers or actors too” says Crews Control represented DP Doug Plumer.

SIX: Shooting on the streets of New York can be tricky but here are a few tips. “We usually try to show the street so people know where all that noise is coming from. Also, low or high camera angles for a MOS or ‘vox pop’ shoots can keep unreleased faces out of your shot while still seeing the street” says Plumer.

FIVE: Check with the crew to see if they have New York “press plates” as in license plates. Adam Shanker states “many NYC crews have press plates. What does this mean for you? Your crew will not have to spend time unloading, and then looking for a parking lot. Press plates will not only save you time but money as well. If a client has two or three locations a day parking costs could add up to $100-$150.”

FOUR: Additional insurance is often required by the locations property management company. VP of Production Valerie Nolan says “check if the building you are shooting in needs a Certificate of Insurance. If needed, this must be arranged by the crew with their insurance agent and they will need as much notice as possible.”

THREE: DP, Adam Shanker explains why the Certificate of Insurance is often requested by the property management company. “Many corporate producers come to NYC to interview executives in the NY office. Simply knowing the interviewee’s schedule and locking that in is not enough. The secretary or office manager that a producer is communicating with to schedule an interview is almost never aware of the building procedures needed to access the building. 9/11 changed everything in NYC. Prior to 9/11/2001 a crew or client could carry a $1 million per occurrence insurance policy, and that would be more than enough. In fact, most places never asked for it back then. Now however, the building people at the freight entrance can shut you down, and not allow your crew to enter unless you have complied with the building requirements in advance of the shoot date. You simply need to call the building people at the freight entrance to find out in advance what is required. They will have a sample form to email you, and you or your crew will need to get them a certificate before the shoot date. Because security experts and lawyers were involved in setting the parameters for the building, many buildings have unreasonable insurance requirements. This is all better to know before you and your crew is standing in the freight next to building trash while trying to negotiate your entrance.”

TWO: “How do we get in? We often resort to google street view to figure out where the freight entrance is located. The other detail that you need to check is when the freight operator goes home. A $20 tip can keep you from getting stuck retrieving your gear the next day” says Plumer.

ONE: Schedule time to do a little sightseeing. “The main tip I’d have for a producer coming to NY is to plan some extra time and enjoy the city. All the boroughs are awesome. There is obviously plenty to do, and the food is great. Ask your crew to point you towards the best bagel and pizza place. Enjoy what NY has to offer” says Shanker.

New York City is a great place to shoot video. As with any new location, video producers just need a little local guidance from a veteran video crew and your shoot will go flawlessly. Please share your tips for shooting video in New York City or in other filming spots of the world on our blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, or LinkedIn page.

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