Over 250 feature films a year are shot in New York City (NYC) and State. The city has a long and illustrious history of Film and TV, with many of the nation’s major news outlets based there.
It is difficult to overstate how iconic the city of New York is to both the big and small screen, with buildings such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building having been the centre of countless feature films and TV dramas. The city of New York proves itself as an unforgettable co-star – many people who visit the city exclaim, “It’s just like it is in the movies”. It is truly multicultural, with Spanish, Italian Russian, Polish and Bengali among the many commonly spoken languages across the city’s five boroughs.
The state of New York offers a wide range of varied scenery and filming backdrops, from beaches and forests to lakes, rivers and mountains.
The main point of contact for anyone wishing to film in New York is the New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and TV Development. Within the city of New York, you need to liaise with the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting.
In recent years, New York has benefited from an incentive program called “Made in NY”. The program was launched by the City of New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting. Under the initiative, Television and Film projects can access up to 30% credit for qualified production expenditure. In 2013 the scheme was extended until 2019 with 420 million dollars a year set aside for the scheme. More information can be found on the Made in NY website.
With so many feature films and TV productions shooting in New York at any one time, here are just some of the more recent titles to use the area for filming:
Bradley Cooper's new TV series Limitless (2015) filmed in the streets of New York in August 2015, including 6th Ave and 12th St in Brooklyn.
Four time Oscar winner Birdman was filmed exclusively in the city during 2013. Fantasy adventure The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013) was shot in NYC by director Harold Zwart, starring Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower.
Another film came from Martin Scorsese (a director, like Woody Allen, strongly associated with the city of New York), who shot The Wolf of Wall Street, (2013) a biographical drama based on Jordan Belfort's memoir starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role.
Also in 2013, director Ken Scott shot the Vince Vaughn-starrer Delivery Man in the city, mainly Brooklyn. In the same year, director Alejandro González Iñárritu completed filming Birdman (2013) starring Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Michael Keaton. Emma Watson plays writer Emma Forrest in Your Voice in My Head (2013), directed by Francesca Gregorini, using New York City.
Star of The Mummy Brendan Fraser also appears in HairBrained (2013), a comedy about a young prodigy who ends up at an Ivy League college. Shot in upstate New York, the film was directed by Billy Kent.
Countless TV shows have been filmed against New York’s inconic backdrops:
NYC was also the set for CBS’ Elementary (2013) starring Jonny Lee Miller as a recently out of rehab Sherlock Holmes with Lucy Liu as Dr Watson.
The hugely successful Tina Fey comedy 30 Rock ran until January 2013, with the title referring to 30 Rockefeller Plaza in NYC where NBC studios are based – the series is a sideways swipe at a fictional comedy sketch show.
Supernatural drama 666 Park Avenue (2013) was filmed in a real apartment block, The Ansonia which in the show appears as The Drake on the Upper East Side.
CBS’ legal drama The Good Wife, which has been running since 2009 and stars Julianna Margulies as a litigator, is also filmed in NYC.
And Lena Dunham’s Girls picks up the Sex & The City idea of a group of girlfriends living and working in the city. The show premiered in 2012 and was renewed by HBO for a third season in 2013.
Also for HBO was Boardwalk Empire, which uses New York to stand in for Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Permits vary state-wide and within NYC. Within the city, you will find that many public spaces such as those mentioned in the locations section of this guide, come under the full or partial jurisdiction of various New York State agencies and authorities. These can also vary depending on which of the five boroughs you are filming in; there could be a separate permit required within each borough authority: Manhattan; The Bronx; Brooklyn; Queens and Staten Island.
For example, locations such as the subway, some tunnels, bus networks, stations, Port Authority, piers and waterfronts, as well as parks and courthouses may each need a specific permit within the presiding authority. For filming on the Subway contact the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) directly. They do charge a fee but this depends on the “scope of your project”. More information can be found on their website.
The best thing to do is check here as permits are issued by the New York City Mayors Office for Film, Theatre & Broadcasting.
For permits for filming in specific locations within the state, you will also need to consult the New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development as they can liaise with the necessary authorities and federal agencies. For example, if you want to film in a prison within the state of New York, a permit would have to be issued by the Department of Corrections; to film at certain campsites, reservoirs and dams, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and so on.
The governor’s office can also deal with applications for child permits on your behalf, which would need to come from the Department of Labor.
There is no general New York State permit. When required, they are administered locally. Again, the governor’s office will refer you to the relevant regional film office or local authority outside the city.
Most of the major powerhouses have offices and facilities in New York, including Sony/Columbia, Disney, DreamWorks, MGM, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros.
There are dozens of sound stages and post-production facilities across the state. Alongside the major studios mentioned above, here are few that within reach in New York city.
Silvercup studios based in Long Island hosts a main lot consisting of 13 studios (9 of which have cycloramas) and separate kino flo lighting, an East Lot which is a self contained gated complex 200,000 ft2 consisting of production offices, large prop and wardrobe spaces and parking for 100 cars.
Steiner Studios boasts ten sounds stages expanding to 131,000 ft. Titles including Sex and the City, Men In Black 3 and the Academy Award Winning Wolf of Wall Street were filmed there.
Gold Coast Studios in Long Island has six stages, a stunt stage and a tie square back lot.
Production office space is readily available throughout New York, with a list of them to be found here.
New York, and particularly Manhattan, has perhaps the longest list of world-famous and iconic buildings and streets of any city in the world. From the Empire State Building to Central Park, and from Grand Central Station to Tiffany’s, the metropolis provides scores of beautiful locations, both historic and modern.
Instantly recognisable locations such as Broadway, Wall Street, The Plaza Hotel, Trump Tower, Gramercy Park, The Met, MoMA and New York’s public library have all been featured in numerous film and TV shows over the years, with more recently-used locations such as The Hummingbird Bakery also becoming a mecca for visiting film and TV tourists. Further a field, Coney Island, in Brooklyn, has a unique look with its coastal location and amusement parks.
New York has a plethora of equipment rental companies. You can see our detailed list here.