Weather is frightful, but filming is delightful

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NEW YORK -- Film in New York and the world is at your fingertips: crew, equipment, actors. The affable Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting keeps everyone else in order. But there's one player in any filming venture that can't be controlled, even by Commissioner Katherine Oliver.

"During the shooting of the pilot, there was a rainstorm. It rained for like, six days," recalls Robert Moresco, executive producer for NBC's "The Black Donnellys." Getting wet, he explains, was not initially part of the plan -- but six days of it made relocating to a cover set impossible.

"So, you deal with it," he says. "It becomes a show that has that look. And if you look at our pilot, it added tremendously to the mood of the piece."

Though the only thing consistent about New York weather is its inconsistency, this winter Mother Nature has sent the city on a roller coaster. December's highs reached 70; January spent much of its days in the mid-50s. Early February plunged into single digits -- and there's been barely a dusting of snow.

Unusually warm temperatures rarely faze productions, but Amy Redford's "The Guitar" hit a warm patch during a series of shots meant to take place as the protagonist experienced Christmas-season blues. Says Redford: "It was strange to have a character going through all that (holiday angst) while the people around her are in shorts."

A few weeks later, the production faced the opposite challenge, as temperatures turned wintry. Redford's director of photography sent out an e-mail imploring crew and cast to come prepared for the final scenes. "The lead actress was definitely acting fast," she says.

Using local crew, Oliver says, is crucial to knowing how to navigate all of New York's potential speedbumps, including weather. "These people are seasoned New Yorkers, so they'll get it done in an efficient way and will be able to deal with the other elements that may come their way during a production," she says.

Experienced crew will also know where to find handwarmers and footwarmers, as for the filming of Garbus Kroupa Entertainment's "Brooklyn to Manhattan." "Everyone goes to Patagonia or Paragon (Sports) and buys all of this expensive cold-weather stuff," producer Paul Hall says. "You know if you're going to be shooting in the winter you're going to be spending more on heating."

Managing New York weather does require more inventiveness than most other locations: Snow that drops one day may melt the next, or could fall in a location too remote for sanitation crews to get to in a timely manner. "Law & Order's" (NBC) location manager, Moe Bardach, has juggled such issues for 15 years -- and knows that sometimes, you just clean the street yourself.

But like Moresco, Bardach is sanguine about the weather. "Having leaves changing color, or cold weather where you can see the actors' breath, or really warm weather where the steam comes up from the streets -- all of these different elements enhance the feeling of reality in the show," he said.

Making a movie on location in a place like New York is naturally logistically challenging, Hall says. But he adds that New York has it over Los Angeles in one very important aspect.

"Unlike California, if they say it's gonna rain and snow and the wind is gonna blow here, that's what's going to happen," he says. "The meteorologists really do their job here."
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