Filming on "New Year's Eve" began in Times Square on December 31, 2010, making it the first feature film to capture the event, live, in its 106-year history.
"Rather than try to recreate the scene on a soundstage, we opted for the real thing," says Mike Karz, who describes some of what that actually meant. "There are a million people there, thousands of policemen, the streets are blocked off, you never know what the weather is going to be like, there are TV schedules and news crews to work around, and it's being broadcast live all over the world. Other than that, it was a piece of cake."
"It was the most exciting thing I've done in a long time," attests Marshall's longtime cinematographer Charles Minsky. "We shot with 12 high-def Alexa cameras. We also had cameras on cranes and rooftops, three on the stage and one down on the street where we filmed for eight hours. It was fantastic."
To coordinate the shoot, the filmmakers worked with the New York City Mayor's Office and NYPD, as well as the Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment, the two organizations that produce the ball drop. They also enlisted Anthony Calvano's Landmark Signs & Electrical, which manages the 1,070-pound Waterford crystal sphere and its 3,500-plus lighting cues. The result was approximately 40 hours of raw footage, including some staged moments involving a crowd of extras decked out in 2012 gear for close-ups.
For Wayne Rice, who had never before celebrated the holiday at its undisputed epicenter, being in Times Square on New Year's Eve was "an experience difficult to describe. Certainly television can't do it justice. When you take in that sea of humanity, the confetti is raining down and you hear Sinatra singing 'New York, New York' with a million people singing along, it's electrifying."
But that was just the beginning. In February they returned and appropriated the site for an additional two weeks of filming with the actors, and rebuilt the stage at 45th and Broadway. Shots focusing on the malfunctioning ball were caught from atop the roof of a building adjacent to One Times Square.
Among their other practical locations were Rockefeller Center's Radio City Music Hall, the neo-Gothic New York Life Building and Chelsea Market. Additionally, the "New Year's Eve" crew was the first to film in Lincoln Center's newly renovated Alice Tully Hall. Audiences will also go inside Queens Museum for a look at what production designer Mark Friedberg calls "one of the most incredible jewels in the city that was created for the 1964 World's Fair."
For the film's big gala, where Jensen makes a heroic effort to win back the woman he lost, the designer dressed the Brooklyn Museum's Beaux Arts Court. "It's sophisticated but avant-garde, with a Busby Berkeley kind of stage. We brought in trees for an illuminated forest, and hung hundreds and hundreds of china balls from the ceiling," he says. Because the museum's high, open ceiling afforded no structural grid from which cinematographer Minsky could hang lights, he and Friedberg worked to incorporate lighting directly into the party décor, enhancing its magical effect.
Friedberg's team also transformed a warehouse into a Balinese set and built a freight elevator on a sound stage.
Apart from coordinating the schedules of their extensive cast, the filmmakers cited cold temperatures as their biggest challenge, since they were not cheating any of their outdoor locations during one of the city's harshest winters in decades. "The weather did get in the way of the kissing," says Marshall with typical humor. "When you're leaning in for a kiss and your breath comes out like smoke it looks like you're in London fog and we can't see the girl's face. They were all troupers, though. They had to pile on the heavy coats and hats and then take them off, do the scene, six or seven takes, freeze, and then back into the coats. I never heard any complaints."
It was all déjà vu for Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, who performed in Times Square for NBC's "New Year's Eve with Carson Daly" in 2008. He concurs, "It was freezing. But if you have a warm heart, you'll survive the cold."
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