May 7, 2004

Location Scouting NYC's Alleys

The Times has an enjoyable story, "
Creepy Space, With Rats, Just $10,000 a Day
" about the recurring popularity among film and TV producers of the few photogenic alleys in Manhattan. But the story doesn't hold up and even misses the point, but not because the $10k location fee turns out to be blustery indie producer hearsay or because it lacks data of production that the Mayor's Film & TV Office could provide with a phone call.

"The dilemma in film and TV in New York City is that writers don't come from New York, but where they come from, there are alleys," said Brooke Kennedy, an executive producer and a director for the Third Watch television drama. "And we don't have that many to choose from."

Chuck Katz, the author of...Manhattan on Film, said the alleys were popular because there is nothing like authenticity.

So alleys are authentic, but the city really doesn't have that many. At least compared to wherever the writers "come from."

Unless they're all palookas from the South Side, the writers come from leafy suburbs; and that loading zone behind the shopping center is not an alley. No, the alleys where writers come from are in the movies and TV shows they saw growing up. From the earliest film noirs to Kojak, Hill Street, and TJ Hooker, alleys are an archetypal literary and cinematic device: the source--sometimes real, of course, but more importantly, imagined--of looming trouble and danger, just out of view, mere steps away, right around the corner.

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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