VIDGO is set to debut in New York, and we could not be more excited. As anyone who has ever visited this wonderful city, the expectations are high. For first-timers, visiting New York can be a surreal experience. You’re prepared for the culture shock and sensory overload of the City That Never Sleeps, but a lot of it can feel familiar. NYC has been the setting for and topic of so many movies, TV shows, books, songs, musicals, that you don’t even have to have been there to have a sense of its movements, its vibe, its architecture. For locals, that’s just how things are, now hurry out the way will ya? We’ve got places to be!
There’s nothing to suggest New York shall ever be toppled as that archetypal vision of what a modern American metropolis looks like, thanks mainly to its appearances in and importance for the entertainment industry. As well as being the shooting location for everything from Hollywood productions to student films, local access to HBO heavy hitter, it’s home to some of the most exciting and important companies working in the business, the center of theater in the country, and a music hub as well.
The idea of the “New York minute” comes from everyone in the city being busy that time seems to move faster. And in that space, all kinds of creative, brilliant things are being done. From Midtown to Marble Hill, Brooklyn to the Bronx, here are nine reasons why New York remains a hot spot in the entertainment industry:
Home Of The Peacock
Amidst all the iconic buildings jostling for your attention in New York, there is one which stands out: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, home to the Rainbow Room, an observation deck which rivals the views offered by the Empire State building and – most importantly – home of the peacock. NBC have been the principal occupants of 30 Rock since it was built in the thirties, back when it was still a radio broadcaster.
Since then NBC has weathered purchases by Comcast and General Electric and still houses both the network’s main offices and several of their biggest shows at the 49th Street location. Shows recorded at the New York studios include Dateline, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Some of the biggest news and entertainment shows in the United States are still broadcast, live from New York.
The city is also called home by the headquarters of ABC, CBS, as well as cable networks such as MTV, Fox News, HBO, Showtime, Bravo, Food Network, AMC, and Comedy Central, with offices covering everything from marketing to business to actual writing and production. Perhaps most importantly, New York is where PBS is based, with the public broadcaster’s most popular show, Sesame Street, set on the multicultural, metropolitan streets outside its offices.
That One Show That Airs Live, On Saturday Night
30 Rock was also the location where Tina Fey’s lightning-quick sitcom of the same name was set. Said show, about Fey, a head writer of a weekly sketch comedy show that airs live from the center, was inspired by her experiences working both behind and in front of the camera for Saturday Night Live. A certified American institution, SNL has been airing since 1975, clocking up some 818 episodes since its debut and cementing its status as one of longest-running television programs airing on network television.
Show creator Lorne Michaels has an uncommon knack for finding new talent and nurturing it. Over the decades, the show has helped to launch the careers of everyone from Eddie Murphy to Will Ferrell to Amy Poehler. Alumni of the show have gone on to create, write and star in comedy classics like The Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World, or shows like Portlandia, which Michaels often has a direct hand in as producer.
Besides continuing to be a source of new talent (The Lonely Island and the cast of the recent Ghostbusters reboot came mostly from the cast), SNL holds considerable influence over the culture at large. The show proved how the entertainment industry can have an effect on as well as reflect the mood of the nation’s’ populace during the recent presidential election.
A Comedy Scene That Keeps On Growing
It certainly helps that this is a city where the stand-up comedy boom never really went away. The city where Lenny Bruce made his name continues to have one of the healthiest and diverse comedy scenes in the country, running the gamut of big name venues like the Comedy Cellar – where Chris Rock or Louis C.K. might drop by to work on new material – to scrappier indie institutions.
One of SNL’s biggest finds was the Upright Citizens Brigade, a theater and school for improvisational comedy. Founded by Amy Poehler along with Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh, the UCB has provided a stage for performers and creators who have gone on to staff the writers’ rooms and casts of shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place, Parks and Recreation and Broad City.
The stand-up scene is similarly healthy, from smaller showcases put on in bars and concert venues. Carnegie Hall has also become a regular venue for the likes of Marc Maron and Tig Notaro, as well as playing host to the annual New York Comedy Festival.
The Glittering Lights Of Broadway…
Lin-Manuel Miranda, having toiled at the coalface of the form he so worships for decades, is finally having his moment. Off the back of the surprise smash success of his musical Hamilton, the composer, lyricist, and performer has since gone on to pen songs for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Disney’s Moana, with a role in the upcoming sequel Mary Poppins Returns, and more musical work with a live-action Little Mermaid.
All of which goes to show that Broadway remains one of the most glittering jewels in the entertainment industry’s crown. Its stages may still be populated with never-ending runs of Les Miserables and Andrew Lloyd-Webber productions, but it also offers room for new and interesting work like Hamilton, transfers from smaller theaters like Stephen Karam’s The Humans, or a ludicrous comedy such as the about-to-close Oh, Hello.
Whilst the likes of Miranda have gone on to work in other fields, that isn’t the sole measure of success on or for Broadway. In an entertainment landscape where budgets are high, special effects are standard and stars are ten a penny, seeing real talent live and in person is something that remains worth the price of admission. Pricey though it is. We recommend you give TKTS a try.
…And Off-Broadway, Too
Of course, most of the stranger stuff that does end up treading Broadway’s boards begins Off-Broadway first. And even then, there’s plenty of productions that remain niche, brilliant, and bizarre. Originally referring to an actual geographical location, Off-Broadway as a term now refers specifically to the size of a theater; it’s any professional venue with a capacity of between 100 and 499.
Hamilton, The Humans and their ilk all had their beginnings on Off-Broadway. It’s also where you can see challenging work by the likes of Annie Baker, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Flick nonetheless came with a warning to theatergoers overs its three-hour run time and naturalistic dialogue, the script for which demanded many prolonged and awkward pauses.
Whilst productions like Fun Home and Avenue Q have since moved to bigger venues, the smaller locations still house the likes of Stomp and the Blue Man Group, along with new productions of old texts and work by up-and-coming writers, composers, and performers. If Broadway is where you go to see the blockbuster stuff, Off-Broadway is where you will find what’s next for the world of American theater. There’s nowhere else like it.
It’s A New Media Hub
The Capital of the World is known for its many cultural institutions, including those listed above, which have existed for decades and continue to provide top-notch entertainment for audiences the world over. That’s not to say that New York is a city which is standing still, however. Look outside Manhattan, towards the trendier, cheaper neighborhoods of Bushwick and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, and you see the beginnings of new media empires on almost every corner.
The crowdfunding website Kickstarter, which has helped any number of films, TV shows, albums, books, games and products get made by offering customers to invest in their production, have their HQ in Greenpoint.
From East Williamsburg, Livestream has offered their online video services to the likes of the BBC and the New York Times. Then there’s the all-conquering VICE Media, the upstart media empire based in Brooklyn who put out print magazines, online content, and house production facilities for their documentary and news shows which air on YouTube, their websites, and their own channel, Viceland.
It All Starts At NYU
New York University, or NYU, has an international reputation as a research institute, consistently ranking amongst the top colleges in the world. Besides its groundbreaking scientific breakthroughs, though, NYU has also been a proving ground for the creative side of American excellence.
The University’s Tisch School of the Arts is focused on creative arts, filmmaking, and performance. It has the most alumni of any college working in Broadway theaters. It has a frankly staggering list of graduates who have gone on to Academy Award success, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Martin Scorsese, and Angelina Jolie. It nurtured the burgeoning literary talents of Ralph Ellison, Judy Blume, and J.D. Salinger.
NYU, as with many New York locales, has provided the backdrop to any number of fictional stories – including Gossip Girl, When Harry Met Sally, and Annie Hall – proving that its cultural cache is both symbolic and tangible.
They Don’t Just Make Movies In L.A., You Know
Hollywood is undoubtedly the epicenter of film production in the United States, but New York is a close second, producing something in the vicinity of 200 feature films every year, employing 130,000 individuals, and contributing nearly $9 billion to the city’s economy as of 2015.
One-third of the independent pictures produced in the country, meanwhile, are shot in New York, making it the world leader in indie films by sheer volume alone. The number of movies filmed and set in and around New York City is almost impossible to count. Whilst Vancouver or other cities are often used to double for the city, that’s nothing compared to the real thing.
Every year the fruits of those labors are premiered at the Lincoln Film Center’s New York Film Festival. Downtown from there is the New York Film Academy, where the next generation of movie makers get hands-on experience, with guest speakers including Steven Spielberg, Al Pacino and Jamie Lee Curtis.
And Then There’s The Music
The visual splendor of the city means it’s ripe for chronicling through the camera, but there’s just as potent a portrait to be painted through music and lyrics. Frank Sinatra’s whole career was built on a characterization of New York city as a place where a fella can plumb the depths of his melancholy, as well as have a swingin’ time. In the annals of NYC musical history, you’ll find everything from the jazz clubs of Harlem to the punk venue CBGB’s, with the more alternative end of the bargain being kept up by Brooklyn venues like the Knitting Factory.
In terms of venues, New York has you covered whether you prefer the DIY, the mainstream indie acts who play at the iconic Radio City Music Hall, or the proper pop behemoths. Madison Square Garden is renowned as the home ground of the New York Knicks during the NBA season, but it’s equally well known as an entertainment venue for legends like Billy Joel and new stars such as Ariana Grande.
New York has a strong recording scene, too. Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady studio in Greenwich Village are still going strong, and whilst Atlantic Records have moved from the location where Charlie Mingus and Aretha Franklin laid down iconic records their studios are still in high demand. Whether you prefer your music live and in person or through your headphones, New York has you covered.