Media And Entertainment Commissioner Katherine Oliver Talks New York As Set Piece


Though much of the real-life news in the city this past week was worth of a couple Law & Order episodes, the mayor’s office brought our attention to on-screen drama. Not only was there the Thursday Gossip Girl hoopla (xoxo, Mayor Mike), but on Tuesday the film Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close got a surprise Oscar nomination for Best Picture. In a press release the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting announced that Extremely Loud was a “Made in NY” film. To learn more about that label, we talked to Katherine Oliver, the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Friday. Read some excerpts of our conversation after the jump:

What gives a project a “Made in NY” designation?
We have a set of criteria that 75 percent of your location work, 75 percent of your stage work must be done here to qualify for the “Made in NY” mark and that allows you to take advantage of an array of incentives that we’ve created. We’ve created a threshold for productions because there are a lot of productions that might just do location work here and then run off somewhere else. The projects that are really made in New York are the ones that shoot the majority of their production in our city.

It’s just a city program?
It’s a New York City initiative, “Made in NY.” We created it at the beginning of the Bloomberg administration because when we started everyone was faking New York in Canada and other parts of the world. And actually one of the first things that I had to deal with back in 2002 was the made-for-TV movie, the unauthorized biography of the Rudy Giuliani story. It was being shot in Montreal and the industry wanted to know what is the new mayor and what is the new film commissioner going to do to bring the business back. How could this happen?

I immediately called [the network] USA and said “how could this be?” And they said, “when we get a script that has New York in it we either send it back or we say let’s figure out another city in which we can shoot this project.” That was the conventional wisdom back in 2002. We created a short- and long-term strategy to bring the business back. We thought it’s all about branding and marketing. We wanted to really celebrate the projects that were being made here. And there were a few. We wanted to really reward a show like Law & Order that was 100 percent made in New York. So we created this logo. It kind of looks like an old New York City subway token, and we thought this is our mark of distinction, and every project that qualifies will display it proudly. It really led to a grassroots initiative where people in the industry were kind of vying for this status. I remember when CSI: NY wanted to use the logo and we said, “we’re not going to give it to you” because they are made in Burbank and they come here maybe five days a year for location shots.

I saw the press release that Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which is nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, is also a “Made in NY” film. How often do you get films that get that kind of recognition?
Oh many, I can go back and look at the list. The one that comes to mind is The Departed. That was a few years ago and it won Best Picture. Martin Scorsese was the director, and the interesting thing about The Departed was that it was set in Boston, but it was shot in New York and made in New York. They went to Boston for a few days, but they were actually faking Boston in Brooklyn and Queens and different parts of Manhattan. We were very proud. We have a long list. Every time there’s Emmy nominations, Golden Globes, Oscars we go through all the “Made in NY” nominees. There were over 110 Emmy nominations for New York shows the last go around. This year we’re very proud about Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. It was shot in New York. It was made here.

And you were at the premiere of Smash Thursday night?
Fabulous. So excited about this show. It’s really amazing. It’s showcasing the theater community and the behind the scenes look at the making of a Broadway show. Debra Messing is fabulous. There are amazing beauty shots of Times Square and of the theaters in New York. There are some notable New Yorkers that have cameos that are involved in the theater industry. This is another example. This show could not have been made anywhere else. And just like the producers of Gossip Girl said, they could not really make Gossip Girl in a backlot in California. You need the iconic locations of New York City, which are respected, embraced and glorified in this show Smash. We wish them luck and we hope that they are going to be extremely successful. But the Broadway community is extremely excited about this show. I think NBC has got a real hit on their hands.

Do you have any “Made in NY” show that you’re just addicted to personally?
We have 23 shows in the ground right now and there’s just not enough hours in the day for me to enjoy every frame of every one of those shows. We’re just very proud. We’re always looking forward to new takes on the city and new stories to be told.