Start spreadin’ the news, they’re leaving today, they want to be no part of it. Major studios — Columbia, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., and MGM/UA — are refusing to shoot movies in New York City until their dispute with two production unions is resolved. The studios say they’ll forgo the Big Apple until the unions — which represent studio mechanics, electricians, video techniques, shop craftspeople, and camera operators — agree to members working more flexible hours and less overtime.
”The producers are not going to have shows coming into New York until the situation is over,” says a stern Joel Grossman, vice president for labor relations at Columbia. The sole exception to the boycott, which began Nov. 1, is sainted Gotham filmmaker Woody Allen, who is shooting his latest project for Orion. The studio hasn’t formally joined the boycott, but it has pulled F/X 2 and other films from New York. ”It’s kind of understood that Allen has total artistic control, and unlike directors making expensive action films, he never goes over the budget.
Jaynne Keyes, director of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting says the local film business is already feeling the crunch even though December is typically a slow month for movie shoots. By March, when production ordinarily perks up, ”We may lose some business,” she says, ”and that’s very sad.” A number of films have already canceled plans to shoot in the city, according to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producer’s Nick Counterer. These include Warner’s The Price of Our Blood with Steven Seagal, Orion’s Car 54, Where Are You? with David Johansen and Nipsey Russell and Fox’s Shining Through with Melanie Griffith as a secretary turned spy.
And despite the real fear of a shutdown, Keyes notes that no film scheduled for street shooting this spring has notified her office of any change in plans. ”I think there’s some distinct posturing going on,” she says.
If the unions and producers kiss and make up, the city can still expect to face stiff competition as a film set — even for scripts set in New York. Remember those Manhattan scenes in Look Who’s Talking? They were shot in Canada. And just last month 29th Street, a movie named after a New York thoroughfare, was shot on a Carolco backlot in Wilmington, N.C.