'Girls' Producer Regina Heyman on the Art of NYC Location Scouting
Heyman reveals her favorite 'Girls' Season 3 shooting location (hint: it's in Clinton Hill), as well as the toughest locations to find.
One of the treats of watching Girls — or any NYC-centric TV show that's actually shot in NYC — is recognizing locations where scenes are shot. Indeed, some people make a sport of pinpointing the show's shooting locales. The characters of the show have traversed many boroughs but Brooklyn is, of course, the big star, with Hannah living and working in Greenpoint. To learn a little bit about the location scouting process, FrontDoor spoke with Girls co-producer and unit production manager Regina Heyman.
How well did you know Greenpoint and Brooklyn before working on the show?
Pretty well. I grew up in New Jersey but I've lived in New York for most of my adult life — I'm 47 and graduated from college in 1988 and pretty much moved here [right afterwards]. I live in Queens but I go to Greenpoint all the time. I'm all over the city, as well as having been a location scout for years before I was a unit production manager.
What do you like about shooting in Greenpoint?
It hasn't changed that much. It's changed, but not in the way that certainly other neighborhoods have. You can still find some interesting [locations] that haven't been completely taken over by new stores like Williamsburg has.
You used to work on The Sopranos and had a file for body dump sites on that show. What kind of location files do you keep for Girls?
It's more basic files — places where the girls would go. So it's night clubs, apartments, not as exciting as The Sopranos. It's more like cool bars, cool coffee shops, loft apartments. To be honest with you, a lot of the locations we scout are driven by the script, so they write them and often times they write a location into the script that they are looking for.
Do you usually manage to get those locations?
It depends. Sometimes the actual location is thrilled to work with us and wants to be in the show. Sometimes the location is not a practical place to bring a film company because you can't fit all your equipment and your actors in it. I'd say a third of the time we end up finding a substitute.
Can you give an instance where the location the writers had in mind was awesome but you couldn't shoot there?
It happens often. One of the locations that was written into a script was Cafe Gitane in Manhattan, and we didn't shoot there because it was too small. Instead we found another restaurant.
Is there a location that you're most proud of finding?
Ray has a new coffee shop and it also sells pizza — that was in the script — so we were looking for something that had a coffee shop look but that also sells pizza. Yeah, that doesn't sound like a good combination, but we ended up finding this pizza restaurant in Clinton Hill called Speedy Romeo. It's just so perfectly decorated and you couldn't really tell that it was either one or the other [pizza or coffee shop]. That's one of our best-looking locations.
What's been the hardest location to find?
I would say some of the hardest locations to find are things like an office space. We have a story line this year where Hannah gets a real job — like in the business world. We had to find an office, and it's really hard to find an office that you can film in. You don't want to just find an empty space and bring all the furniture in. That's really expensive. But you want the views of midtown, or wherever, out the window. So you have to find a working office that would allow you to film in there on a week day during their business hours. … People's lofts are hard to find. You have to either know someone or you have to think, "Who lets you into their apartment? And how will you know what it looks like before you head up there?" Those are always harder things to scout for than, like, a restaurant, which you can just walk into.
Hannah visited her editor's offices in Sunday night's episode. Where was that reception area shot?
That was a hard location to find. I don't want to give away someone's business information, but it's a law office in midtown.
There was also a cemetery in that same episode. Where was that shot?
It's called All Faiths Cemetery and it's in Middle Village, Queens. There's basically only one or two cemeteries where you can shoot in all of New York City and they're both in Queens. That's how that [location] got chosen.