Grazer Makes the Most of New York's "Mean Streets"

By Comer, Brooke | American Cinematographer, June 1994 | Go to article overview

Grazer Makes the Most of New York's "Mean Streets"


Comer, Brooke, American Cinematographer


There are enough West Coast producers who break out in hives at the thought of working in New York to form an "I Hate to Shoot in New York" club. The members of this informal group justify their fears by citing horror stories about productions held up by transit strikes, union troubles, or other urban foul-ups. Ironically, many of these producers are actually native New Yorkers, disguised by the suntans and haircuts that came with their success on the West Coast. It's possible, of course, that the New York skyline triggers memories of childhood trauma. This could explain why one of the few L.A. producers who loves to shoot in New York is a native of Southern California.

Brian Grazer, who heads up Imagine Films Entertainment with partner Ron Howard, loves Manhattan. He recognizes the challenges that an unwieldy population, traffic and cold weather can pose, but he also sees, amid the flux and chaos, an energy as mercurial as his own.

Scripts with New York scenes have never fazed Grazer. His first two movies, Night Shift and Splash, were shot in New York, and he has used the city as a setting for several other pictures as well. Of the four projects Grazer produced this spring - My Girl Two, Greedy, The Paperanu The Cowboy Way- the latter two both filmed in New York (Cowboy Way also shot in Santa Fe).

Imagine's most recent release, The Paper, takes place in Manhattan, but 60 percent of its scenes are interiors. As Grazer admits, "It could have been made anywhere." Yet New York, specifically the 18th floor of an almost fully occupied building across the street from the Fulton Fish Market, was the chosen location. "We felt the true vibrance of the city would come across if we shot in the real environment. The publishing industry is an important part of the New York fabric, something we hoped would seep into our movie and have some value. And it did. Being in New York helped stimulate the pace of the newsroom scenes."

Grazer has always enjoyed good fortune in the city, and has rarely felt any trepidation about returning. "I had incredible luck with The Paper," he recalls. "Everything went perfectly. But I did have some doubts about shooting The Cowboy Way. I was frightened by the number of exteriors and the amount of time we had for shooting." He also worried about unpredictable weather in late fall and winter. "Even though the film is thematically indigenous to New York, I tried to find ways to split it between L.A. and Canada or New York and Canada," he says. But he realized there was no way to avoid New York and maintain any kind of reality, "so I crossed my fingers, closed my eyes and decided to do it."

The Cowboy Way tracks the adventures of two contemporary cowboys from New Mexico (played by Keifer Sutherland and Woody Harrelson), who make a hand-to-mouth living off of jackpot rodeosand "brush popping" (retrieving lost cattle for money). When their friend is killed in New York, they head to the Big Apple to brush-pop for the bad guys responsible. …

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