North Hempstead attracting more movie shoots

Ed Burns attended a preview of his new Ed Burns attended a preview of his new movie, Fitzgerald Family Christmas, as part of the Gold Coast Film Festival. (Oct. 25, 2012) Photo Credit: Amanda Voisard

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When the CBS show "Elementary" wanted to film a recent episode on Long Island, Maxine Moss made it clear North Hempstead was not available.

"Sherlock Holmes was going to be kidnapped," she said, describing an all-night shoot that would have involved 40 cars and 15 trucks -- essentially, a noisy takeover of a sleepy residential street. "There's no way to do that without upsetting the neighbors."

Such are the calls Moss, the town's filming permit coordinator, often faces these days. With the lifting in September of the town's "draconian" measures surrounding filming, and generous statewide tax breaks, the town suddenly finds itself in demand by the film industry.

Producers are taking a second look at the Gold Coast, with its million-dollar mansions, green parks and waterfronts. And the town is generating buzz as a prime place to film -- buzz that was amplified last month during the second annual Gold Coast International Film Festival.

"The great thing about having a film festival up here on the North Shore of Long Island is you have folks from the business coming to screen their films," said actor and filmmaker Ed Burns, a Valley Stream native, in a recent interview after his latest film, "The Fitzgerald Family Christmas," was shown at a Port Washington cinema in October.

"They're going to be exposed to everything that the North Shore has to offer, and you're probably going to see more films being shot here."

Since the beginning of summer, the town has allowed 21 requests, up from just two last year. In July, the CW series "Gossip Girl" filmed at a convenience store in Carle Place. Last month, "The Wolf of Wall Street," directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, shot scenes outside the Port Washington Yacht Club.

The growth in filming on the North Shore follows a similar, if not more intense trend in Nassau County.

Debra Markowitz, director of the Nassau County Film Office, said filming in the county has increased by at least 7 percent each of the last two years. Except for New York City, she said, "We have more production days than any other county or borough in New York."

North Hempstead, she said, was a popular area for filming until several years ago when it changed its policies. "Then it got extremely expensive," she said. "I was getting calls from location scouts saying, 'What happened?' "

The cost of filming there has fallen because officials lifted the restriction that filming could not exceed three consecutive days and required producers to buy a permit for each day of filming.

Often, she said, municipalities don't have any bargaining power.

"The fees can be competitive, and you basically have to welcome them with open arms," Markowitz explained. "They don't have to shoot in New York."

North Hempstead villages, too, are seeing dividends from the movie business. When "The Following," a Kevin Bacon drama set to premiere on Fox in January, filmed in Old Westbury last month, crews parked their cars in East Hills.

The village charged $6,000 for the day, a price tag Mayor Michael Koblenz announced proudly at a recent village meeting. "I hope they stay all month," he said.

Matthew Bernstein, an assistant location manager for "The Wolf of Wall Street," said when a town is accommodating, word spreads fast among filmmakers."The more people who shoot here and the more pleasurable experience they have, the more we will return," he said.

Indeed, the added buzz is welcome in North Hempstead, as it looks to cement its image as an arts destination. At the after-party for Burns' film in Roslyn, town Supervisor Jon Kaiman made loud mention of the recent partnership between the town and the Great Neck Arts Center, the group that held the film festival.

"We have the Gold Coast!" Kaiman chanted, to cheers from the crowd.

And for a town that has been home to film luminaries present and past -- including W.C. Fields and Groucho Marx, Kaiman said -- "the Gold Coast Film Festival adds to that cache."

But don't expect North Hempstead to become the next Hollywood.

"I don't know that we necessarily need the whole industry," Kaiman said. "We're OK with them coming and visiting and going home."

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