George Clooney and Brad Pitt have invaded the neighborhood to film their latest flick, the Coen Brothers’ “Burn After Reading,” and I, for one, can’t wait for the Hollywood heartthrobs to hit the road.
It’s impossible to not have noticed the throngs of production vehicles dominating our streets. From trailers on Cadman Plaza and Hicks Street to the elaborate craft service set-up — complete with a wrought-iron barbeque — on Clark Street, the whole thing is a major eyesore and a parking nightmare.
The epicenter of the filming is on State Street between Clinton and Court streets, where several houses have already been painted shades of red, yellow and blue to transform them into proper Georgetown residences.
Georgetown, as in Washington, DC. How’s that? We get all the traffic and congestion, but another city gets the on-screen credit?
“That was the look they wanted, so that’s what they’re going to do,” said Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Judy Stanton.
“That’s a particularly congested block,” Stanton added.
It’s going to get even more congested. If you’re walking to the Hillside dog park this Tuesday, there will be flaming pyrotechnics and bloody (well, fake-bloody) bodies on Middagh Street, according to a flyer from the film’s production company, Gramercy Productions.
“An aftermath of a T-bone crash,” will be shot on the street, between Hicks and Willow streets, the flyer said. Of course filming requires an entourage of support vehicles, which means the west side of Hicks between Orange and Poplar Streets will be blocked off as well.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous and over-the-top,” said local Neil Thayler. “They’ve held spots on Hicks Street for two weeks already. It’s really taking advantage of the residents.”
If sympathy is what you’re after, don’t look to the mayor’s office.
“It should be remembered that parking is paid for and shared by all New Yorkers, including the 100,000 who work in the entertainment industry,” said Julianne Cho, who runs the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting.
Not to mention, said Cho, that filming provides jobs for many of our fellow New Yorkers. When major celebrities are involved, productions are much bigger, which translates to more streets blocked off and more jobs.
So am I heartless for wishing productions could jump across the river to Gaphattan? If so, I’m not the only callous local.
“The whole neighborhood has been calling about parking,” said Irene Janner, the office manager at the BHA.
Extensive filming puts a real pressure on the neighborhood to absorb all of the displaced cars, especially since parking is already a problem. Add another commercial production — for Electrolux vacuums — that blocked off chunks of Columbia Heights during Tuesday’s street sweeping last week, and parking gets especially hairy.
“We already have such an issue with government employees who park with placards in places where regular tax-paying people could park,” said Stanton. “So much parking is now blocked off, but there is very little I can do to appease residents.”
No wonder many neighborhoods have gotten temporary moratoria on filming. It’s time to renew ours.
The big reason that so much filming goes on in the neighborhood is because residents make their homes available to film crews. Once property owners give the OK to use their homes, it’s very easy for the production company to get a permit from the mayor’s office.
“Homeowners need to know that when they’re approached by a location scout, it might seem glamorous, but they need to be considerate about what it means to their neighbors around the corner and the next corner,” said Stanton.
“The homeowners might be getting a nice location fee, but they should think about what it means to everyone else who is not getting paid off.”
Unfortunately, the film office’s concern for our local parking plight amounts to a pile of bitter beans.
“One way we try to balance the needs of the neighborhood with the needs of the production is through our Starbucks residence appreciation program,” said Cho. “We will work with the production to hand out free cups of coffee to the neighborhood to remind them this drives employment.”
The only thing I’ve been handed is a parking citation.
Juliana Bunim is a writer who lives in Brooklyn Heights.
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