Location Scout Nick Carr on How the Movie Version of New York is Different Than the Real New York

Location Scout Nick Carr on How the Movie Version of New York is Different Than the Real New York

from: Thea Green, P3update.com

Location Scout Nick Carr, who has worked on everything from The Smurfs to The Wolf of Wall Street, knows the real New York is not the one always depicted in movies.

In fact, many of the locations that he’s asked to find are places created by movies that do not actually exist within the city. In a recent article he wrote for The Guardian, Carr talked about how different the movie version of New York is from the city he lives in.

Carr first came to this realization when asked to find the bad parts of Brooklyn that didn’t exist for a police thriller. “After striking out in Crown Heights, Brownsville and East New York (often referred to as the ‘murder capital of New York’), I was literally out of options,” Carr said. “The designer was undeterred. ‘You know what I mean – the bad neighborhoods! Burning barrels! Trash everywhere! Homeless people in the street! Where do we find it?’ That’s when I realized we were looking for something that only exists in the movies.”

A good portion of what movie audiences have come to know and love as quintessential New York are the same spots of the city over and over again. “Take alleyways, for example,” Carr mentioned. “From the movies, you’d think Manhattan to be riddled with dank, dangerous, trash-strewn back-alleys, complete with rusting fire escapes and crumbling, graffiti-covered brick walls. So it often comes as a total shock to most directors when we tell them that Manhattan actually has only three or four of these types of alleys (Cortlandt Alley, Great Jones Alley, Broadway Alley, Staple Street), and none are dangerous in the slightest.”

The way that Coney Island is depicted on screen rarely shows its true, somewhat rundown state, and instead is used as a set for any type of carnival sequence needed. “Today, filmmakers instead simply treat it as a backlot set, a blank slate to create whatever version of amusement park best fits a script,” Carr said. “A great example of this can be found in two competing episodes of ‘Law & Order: SVU’. In the season 10 finale, ‘Zebras’, the park is shown as a thriving joyland, packed to the gills with parents and children enjoying state-of-the-art rides while munching on popcorn and cotton candy. But just three seasons later, it would be depicted in another episode, ‘Strange Beauty’, as a mysterious, freak-filled carnival home to body-mutilation enthusiasts, the last place a family would think to go. The fact that neither of these portrayals resemble reality hardly seems to have bothered the film-makers.”

This is a relatively new phenomenon according to Carr, who cites earlier versions of New York created by directors like Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese to be more accurate depictions. “For decades, film-makers came to New York City not for a generic urban backlot set, but to capture the essence of the city,” Carr wrote. “Consider Taxi Driver and Annie Hall. Despite being made less than a year apart (1976 and 1977, respectively), their competing portrayals of New York couldn’t be more different. Whereas Scorsese’s New York is a simmering cauldron of filth, neglect and despair, Allen’s is a playground for the upper-crust intelligentsia and middle-aged hippies.” (The Guardian)

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