- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

NEW YORK
Few people are more closely identified with New York than Rudolph W. Giuliani, but when producers decided to make a movie about the former mayor's life, they went to Canada.
"Rudy!" began shooting this month in Montreal and that isn't the only film affront to New York. The producer of a second Giuliani biopic says he also may cross the border to take advantage of cost incentives in Canada.
"The streets of New York you can't replicate anywhere," says Lorenzo Minoli, who hopes to begin filming "Emperor of the City: The Story of America's Mayor" next year for NBC. But, he adds, "You have to check with your wallet and see what you can really afford."
Industry officials say the migration of a movie about Mr. Giuliani, who campaigned for businesses to stay in the city after last year's terrorist attack, is the most galling example of a trend toward New York stories being told elsewhere.
From 1998, when Canada began offering tax credits and other incentives, through 2001, film and TV production expenditures in New York City dropped more than 10 percent by about $265 million according to the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting.
The September 11 terrorist attacks didn't have a great effect on the drop-off, city officials say, because threatened strikes in 2001 had forced major studios to move up production earlier in the year.
Films set in New York but shot primarily in Toronto in recent years include "American Psycho," the Sean Connery film "Finding Forrester" and Michael Douglas' "Don't Say a Word." Sandra Bullock persuaded producers to shoot her new comedy with Hugh Grant, "Two Weeks Notice," in Manhattan when filmmakers considered moving it to Canada.
So-called "runaway production" has affected the film industry nationwide. Canada's national tax credits combined with credits offered by some provinces, the weaker Canadian dollar and lower wages can shave 25 percent or more off the cost of production.
A 1999 study prepared for actors and directors unions concluded that U.S. productions being made overseas in the 1990s cost the U.S. economy $10 billion.
"It's to the benefit of New York and New Yorkers for us to shoot here," says Ed Sherin, a director on the set of "Law & Order," the TV franchise that has bucked the trend and continued filming in New York.
Mr. Sherin says films set in New York but shot elsewhere are sacrificing realism for cost. Lew Gould, a producer for "Law & Order," says the city isn't such a difficult place to film and is home to many top actors and production crews.
However, the president of Canada's largest film studio argues that New York movies can be made realistically and more conveniently north of the border.
In New York, "it's that much more difficult to do; controlling traffic, getting a location, paying for the location," says Ken Ferguson, president of Toronto Film Studios.
Companies in Toronto rent out cars made to look like New York taxis and police cars. The city has street corners and restaurants that in a tight camera shot look just like SoHo, he says.
Katherine Oliver, New York City's film commissioner, blamed a slow economy and urged Congress to pass legislation that would offer filmmakers incentives to stay in the United States.
She says the city already offers an incentive package that includes free permits for public places and a division of the New York police force assigned, for no charge, to help filmmakers.
Some producers say the city could do a better job promoting the industry among New Yorkers, who complain about traffic and other neighborhood disruptions caused by filming.
"You get everybody gouging you. You've got somebody who doesn't want the streets closed. You've got the neighborhood tree association," says Larry Meistrich, former president of the independent film company the Shooting Gallery. It closed last year, two months after it was acquired by a Toronto-based company.
Mr. Minoli, president of the independent Five Mile River Films, says he will shoot some exterior New York shots for his Giuliani film but he wants to see whether New York can come close to Canada's discounts before he decides where to film.
Carlton America, the company making "Rudy!" for USA Networks, has declined comment on the decision to film in Montreal. Mr. Giuliani, who has no say over the films being made about him, also declined comment.
The Directors Guild of America says about 25 movies with New York settings are filming or were filmed in Canada during the past three years, including a TV movie about the 1991 racial riots in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood.


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