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5 Epic Places to Shoot Video in New York
New York City offers an abundance of diverse sites to shoot video with something to offer videographers and camera crews for nearly every type of shot or scene.
While New York has many Chinatowns, the one most popular with tourists and artists alike is Chinatown, Manhattan, a colorful neighborhood known for its discount markets, exotic shops, cheap Chinese restaurants, and clear indications of Chinese immigrant history and culture.
Chinatown originated as a landing point for Chinese immigrants in the 1870s escaping persecution as workers in the American West. It started with a small pool of the first escapees on Mott Street and expanded from there as more arrived.
Due to the prevailing challenges at the time, Chinatown remained a relatively self-contained community removed from the rest of New York, giving it a mysterious, almost fantastical, aura as well.
In 1965, there was a massive influx of Chinese immigrants to Chinatown, forcing the neighborhood to expand into the Lower East Side and Little Italy. Today, Chinatown borders SoHo and the Tribeca neighborhood as well.
Videographers can capitalize on this conflux of cultures, including Dominican, Puerto Rican, and hipsters for showing lifelike glimpses of cultural fences and bridges.
Yet Chinatown is just as renowned for its many steamy, dangerous streets and dark, foreboding alleys that make perfect places to shoot video in New York with gritty, suspenseful, or violent scenes.
Camera crews shooting period pieces in NYC with scenes of opium dens, unsolved murders, and other elements of underground culture can find an abundance of sites to shoot video in New York in just this one neighborhood.
Besides the eponymous Jack Nicholson classic, other famous films shot in Chinatown include:
- Year of the Dragon
- King of New York
- 9 1/2 Weeks
- Woody Allen’s Alice
Good video shoot sites in Chinatown, depending on your needs, include the disparate Museum of Chinese in America, Temple Mayana, and Columbus Park.
2. The Meat Packing District
Formerly known as Gansevoort Market, the Meatpacking District stretches from Hudson Street west to the Hudson River and from Gansevoort Street north to West 16th Street. Within that area, a latticework of old buildings and sprawling warehouses hearken back to the Meatpacking District’s origins as the City’s slaughtering and meatpacking center.
This makes it an apt location for shooting scenes with a naturalesque back-drop, tone, or foreshadowing of violence and gore, helplessness and desolation, though it would need to be reset to closely resemble that era in its history, as today the former seediness of the neighborhood has given way to trendy bars, gourmet restaurants, high-end clothiers and hopping night clubs.
For videographers seeking to set a modern hipster culture against a seedy, gritty backdrop, the Meatpacking District might be the ideal shooting site.
Camera crews can also shoot scenes of sheer, unadulterated excess, fashion, sophistication, and glam here with as much or little of the New York “edge” as you prefer. Today, artists, graphic designers, and architects call this place home, and many corporations base their headquarters here.
Famous films with scenes shot in the Meatpacking District include:
- Fatal Attraction
- Basic Instinct
- I Am Legend
3. P.J. Clarke’s
Built back in 1868, saloon/restaurant P.J. Clarke’s has become the preeminent bar of bars, having largely set the standards for bar culture in the United States.
Set on the corner of 55th Street and 3rd Ave, it’s the historic location where Frank Sinatra kept Table 20 on reserve, Buddy Holly proposed marriage and a barrage of Hollywood and political legends frequented, including Dick Clark, Ted Kennedy, and JFK and Jackie O.
Its bacon cheese-burger, Nat King Cole called “The Cadillac of Burgers.” It’s a star-studded history that videographers can easily capitalize on.
For a time, P.J. Clarke’s was also a hotspot for Madison Avenue ad execs, making it an apt site for shooting the hit TV series, “Mad Men.” P.J. Clarke’s may be best known to film buffs, however, as the location of Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend.
In addition, Woody Allen’s Annie Hall was shot in a nearby location that later became an extension of the saloon.
One of the special features of the saloon that videographers and camera crews can take advantage of is a second-floor upscale dining room removed from the hubbub of the bar below. This allows for endless opportunities to juxtapose two classes or cultures or otherwise get two distinct indoor settings in one.
Regardless of how you utilize the space, if you’re looking to shoot video inside a New York saloon/restaurant with an authentic feel and a historic air, P.J. Clarke’s might just be your best choice.
4. The Daily News Building
Not just any New York Skyscraper, the Daily News Building has a history and character like no other. An Art Deco architectural marvel looming above all the surrounding buildings, the 37-story office building fondly known as the News Building has played host and home to a cavalcade of New York staple TV and radio stations.
The building’s unmistakable three-story, elaborately carved granite facade is an iconic New York image honoring the office workers depicted in its carvings beneath a luminescent sunburst motif. The effect can subtly yet majestically elevate any blue-collar character or deceptively mundane scene.
Now a National Historic Landmark, the Daily News Building was the set of The Daily Planet in the original Superman. The building was also a key location for all three films in the notorious French erotic Emanuelle trilogy.
5. Gay Street
Meeting up with Christopher Street, one of the most famous streets in Greenwich Village’s LGBTQ history and culture, the street named Gay was not actually named for the gay people, but for a person with the surname Gay, though which specific person in the street’s rich history remains in question.
Steeped in local lore, the street linking Christopher Street to Waverly Street just to 6th Ave’s west boasts an array of stately Federal-style buildings dis-playing another of New York’s many strange juxtapositions, this one between the east-west and north-south streets of the Village. While the character of each of these sections has shifted over the years, their distinctiveness from one another has always been a mark of the neighborhood. And Gay Street is the short, narrow, humble yet patrician street joining the two.
To add more distinction and confluence of cultures, the two sides of Gay Street have grown increasingly disparate over time. The west side of the street retains its early-19th-century charm while the east side received a complete home makeover during the Greek Revival.
Among the films with scenes shot on Gay Street was Carlito’s Way, starring Al Pacino. A family residence on the street also became the subject of an autobiographical short story collection that turned in time into Broadway’s 1953 hit music Wonderful Town.
Recap: Video Shoots in New York
The above video shoot locations are only a taste of the range of places that video crews can shoot video in New York and set any shot or scene just right.
New York offers so much for camera crews – different structures, gardens, historic buildings, streets, history, and virtually every type of location you could need for your video project.