City on location

City on location

Until 1965 New York City hardly appeared in films at all, but then:

John V. Lindsay — who, soon after taking office in 1966, made New York the first city in history to encourage location filmmaking: establishing a simple, one-stop permit process through a newly created agency (now called the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting), creating a special unit of the Police Department to assist filmmakers, and ordering all city agencies and departments to cooperate with producers and directors.

It’s been replicated in almost every state and every city, and:

In New York alone, it helped to usher in what has become virtually an entire new industry, generating over five billion dollars a year in economic activity and bringing work to more than 100,000 New Yorkers.


It is a change in sensibility so pervasive — from the city as a place of function, in essence, to a place of pleasure — that today it surrounds us, almost invisibly, having quietly revolutionized the way we think about the meaning and purpose of New York and other American cities.

Location shooting, revolutionary at the time, helped re-imagine every corner of the city as an outdoor stage. As duly invisible and pervasive as film sets are, a small part of us wonders if, when we pass by with our Anthora coffee cups, our dogs, our strollers, our running gear, are we part of the set of whatever secret that’s being filmed? Most of the time, we pass by unaware. But other times, we hold our heads that much higher, aware that we too are part of the urban landscape, and indeed, using the city both as a place of function and a place of pleasure.