Tales of a NYC location scout

One of my favorite, little joys of living in New York City is having my way blocked by a film shoot. Sarcasm aside, there’s something pretty wonderful about walking down a random street only to suddenly remember a scene from a movie that was shot in that exact location. It’s a sensation that makes living in a somewhat difficult city (but one which has had an iconic role in countless films) worthwhile. And after living here awhile you occasionally come across an interesting street or building and you start thinking “This would be an awesome location for my theoretical rom-com about the pedicab driver who falls in love with an uptown girl” – in other words, pretending to be a location scout.

Nick Carr, a lucky individual with just such a job, has been documenting some of his urban discoveries on his terrific blog Scouting NY, which I’ve been following for awhile. In this short interview with The Atlantic I really like this particular question involving directors and alleys in New York City:

And do most other films not use cities in a realistic way?

Some do and some don’t. I’d say I’ve worked on more films that want to find the imaginary version of New York than the real. The big thing I always get asked to find are dank dilapidated alleys, and New York City has, like, five alleys that look like that. Maybe four. You can’t film in three of them. So what it comes down to is there’s one alley left in New York, Cortlandt Alley, that everybody films in because it’s the last place. I try to stress to these directors in a polite way that New York is not a city of alleys. Boston is a city of alleys. Philadelphia has alleys. I don’t know anyone who uses the ‘old alleyway shortcut’ to go home. It doesn’t exist here. But that’s the movie you see.

I wonder if this alley I used to always walk past when I worked in Soho is one of the alleys Nick is referring to? There’s some hilarious graffiti art on the walls.