The Young Person’s Guide to Filmmaking Resources in Brooklyn

By Scott Macaulay | October 15, 2010
Steiner Studios Steiner Studios

As part of Movie City Brooklyn, Scott Macaulay breaks down all you need to know as an up-and-coming filmmaker in New York’s second borough.

The lights of Manhattan as seen from a nighttime cab ride across the Brooklyn Bridge — it’s a signature shot of the city found in so many movies. But in recent years, the camera of the filmmaking scene has turned towards backs towards Brooklyn as the borough has become home to not just film shoots but filmmakers, film resources and film organizations.

You can spot the borough all throughout HBO’s Bored to Death, created by resident Jonathan Ames. Spike Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks has long lived in Brooklyn, currently at a Fort Greene address, and Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale plumbed the writer’s community around Prospect Park, while younger filmmakers like Andrew Bujalski and Aaron Katz have explored Williamsburg’s basement rock clubs and artists’ cafes. And, two years ago the long-standing Independent Filmmaker Project moved from the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan to DUMBO (for non-Brooklynites, “down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass”), joining organizations new and old that call Brooklyn their home.

Here are several filmmaking organizations that live in the city’s largest borough.

Reel Works
Located at 540 President Street, Reel Works is a non-profit organization that mentors 150 teenagers annually in the art and craft of filmmaking. Bringing together youth with industry advisors who include such documentary filmmakers as Laura Poitras, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, Reel Works uses filmmaking to help its members “gain self-esteem, master state-of-the-art technology and transform from passive consumers to active creators of media.”

Brooklyn Young Filmmakers Center
Located in the Fort Greene neighborhood, the non-profit Brooklyn Young Filmmakers Center teaches filmmaking to local residents and promotes job placement within the film industry. Classes cover everything from writing a screenplay to how to work as a P.A.

Independent Filmmaker Project
Now celebrating its 30th anniversary year, the IFP is a national organization dedicated to the support of independent filmmakers. Its programs include the annual Independent Film Week; labs devoted to new filmmakers, both doc and fiction and at all stages of the filmmaking process; the publication of Filmmaker magazine; and the annual Gotham Awards, celebrating the best in independent film. Long based in Manhattan, the IFP recently moved to Jay Street in DUMBO.

Brooklyn Film Festival
The Brooklyn Film Festival is an international, competitive festival held each June. This upcoming year’s venues are the Brooklyn Heights Cinema on Henry Street and indieScreen. Encompassing independent and arthouse films, kids movies, and networking events, the Brooklyn Film Festival has declared a special “spotlight” focus for 2011 in which the festival will examine the relationship between film and a variety of press global and local issues.

Mono No Aware
Mono No Aware is a Brooklyn-based film event occurring on November 28, 2010 consisting of programs by creative artists and performers incorporating film in their work. Submissions are due by November 5, and the group’s site urges, “Embrace the film medium. Cut & splice found footage you picked up at a yard sale. Take all your unused footage from an old project and create something new with the unused scenes. Spend 50 bucks to shoot & process 100 feet of 16mm and make a three- minute masterpiece with a friend’s Bolex. Paint on the film surface. Go on eBay and pick up a dozen old reels for ten bucks. Run 10 projectors at once on a single screen. Splice, dice, paste, shoot, and do it all over again.”

Scene: Brooklyn
Scene: Brooklyn is a series of programs run by the Brooklyn Arts Council.  Screenings, professional development seminars, filmmaker meet-ups, and yearly grants to 15 Brooklyn-based film and media artists are all offered by the Washington Street organization.

BRIC Arts/Media Bklyn
BRIC describes itself as the “community access television organization for the borough of Brooklyn.” It encompasses several different programs, including the Brooklyn Community Access Television Network and the Brooklyn Free Speech program, for which community producers created over 600 hours of programming a week. Brooklyn Independent Television airs five days a week, six hours a day with locally produced programs about the borough. The Brooklyn Center for Media Education at the BCAT Media Center provides instruction and tutorials on professional media production, and students can go on to create program for the Brooklyn Free Speech program. Read about it all at their Community Media page.

Filming in Brooklyn
Brooklyn movie buffs can saunter by the borough’s latest production after checking out Filming in Brooklyn, a blog devoted to Brooklyn film shoots. It’s run by a local mother who writes, “I try to go to as many movie, TV, and commercial shoots as I can, get interesting photos, and occasionally talk to some cast and crew members (I try not to bother anybody too much, I do understand that they’re trying to do a job).” Most recently she strolled by the set of The Good Wife at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

Steiner Studios
At the Brooklyn Navy Yards, Steiner Studios is a large part of the reason why filmmaking in Brooklyn is on the uptick. With five sound stages totaling over 300,000 square feet – including one stage, at 27,000 square feet, that’s the largest stage on the East Coast — Steiner attracts top studio and minimajor films, including recently Sex and the City 2, The Tempest, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Brooklyn’s Finest.

Eastern Effects
For over a decade, Eastern Effects has rented from its warehouse on DeGraw Street lighting and grip equipment to independent filmmakers, including filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck for their Brooklyn-set It’s Kind of a Funny Story. In 2006, Eastern Effects began to rent production office space to productions like Cold Souls, Normal, and Staten Island.

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