Conversations With Brooklyn’s Finest, Part One

Last week, Filming In Brooklyn got the opportunity to spend a day on location in Brownsville with the cast and crew of Brooklyn’s Finest. This movie is being shot almost entirely in Brooklyn, and almost all of it is on location. We were lucky enough to be able to speak at length with several of the people responsible for getting this movie made, including director Antoine Fuqua, producer John Thompson, and screenwriter Michael C. Martin.

Filming In Brooklyn is very used to seeing jaded residents of neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens, Fort Greene, Williamsburg, and Dumbo complain about all of the negatives that accompany a film or TV shoot. Those parts of Brooklyn, with their beautiful rows of brownstones, picturesque bridge views, cute shops and restaurants, and Manhattan vistas, do get the bulk of the on-location shoots that occur in Brooklyn. It’s not unusual to see two or even three productions filming within blocks of each other, their trailers and trucks taking up blocks of valuable parking spots, their crews and equipment blocking the sidewalks. Those residents have largely gotten over the excitement of seeing stars in their midst.

Antoine Fuqua and Richard Gere under the tracks in Brownsville:

So, it was nice to see an entire neighborhood react with curiosity and excitement to a production moving in. People of all ages crowded around to see what was going on. A young man pointed across the street nonchalantly and said “Yeah, that’s Richard Gere over there.” An old man walked up to a production assistant and said “I’m ready for my close-up. Where do you want me?” And rather than keep residents far back and under control, Brooklyn’s Finest has gone out of its way to include the people of Brownsville in the process. Many of the extras live in the neighborhood. Several speaking roles went to locals. Many days, the crew sets up extra chairs and headphones so that neighborhood kids can listen in as scenes are being shot. And everyone we spoke to had great things to say about the reception that Brownsville has given the production.

Screenwriter Michael C. Martin (pictured above) told us that the neighborhood has been “incredibly cool” about hosting the production. Sitting in the shadow of the Van Dyke Houses, he related how he grew up ten blocks – two subway stops – from where they were shooting, and was excited to be there as part of the production, inspiring others in the neighborhood to follow their dreams.

Many local businesses have been used in scenes, and an apartment in the Van Dyke Houses was a key location. The Van Dyke Community Center was used repeatedly as the meal spot for the cast and crew. According to Nick Bernstein, the locations manager, donations were made to neighborhood organizations and parks, and the production will be installing grills at the Van Dyke Houses as a way of saying thank you.

Filming this production in Brooklyn was very important to all involved. Producer John Thompson mentioned that just a few years ago, economics would have prevented this movie from being made. However, he explained that New York State recently tripled its tax incentive for productions filming in New York State. Added to the tax incentive that the City of New York provides, filming in New York has become not only possible for many productions, but preferable. Previously, many TV shows and movies set in New York would do most of their filming on an L.A. soundstage, and then come to NY to shoot just a few days on location. But according to the L.A.Times, shows such as Life on Mars, Ugly Betty, Kings, and Fringe will be doing all of their filming in New York this season.

According to Thompson, the new tax incentives can represent the entire difference between a project making money or losing money. And in the case of an independent film company, which doesn’t have the finances of a huge studio to fall back on, the incentives can make a project like Brooklyn’s Finest possible. “Everybody would prefer to film an entire movie in New York City, not Toronto.”

Coming up on Monday: Antoine Fuqua speaks with Filming In Brooklyn

Originally posted on Filming In Brooklyn

NY’s Film, TV Incentives Could Tax L.A.’s Economy [Los Angeles Times]
On Location With Brooklyn’s Finest, Bodega Edition [Filming In Brooklyn]
On Location With Brooklyn’s Finest [Filming In Brooklyn]
Brooklyn’s Finest Keeping Out Of Sight In Flatlands [Filming In Brooklyn]

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