About The Production
Production on the film, which is set primarily in New York City, began in and around Manhattan in May 1997 and then returned to Los Angeles, which doubled for the Big Apple
Production on the film, which is set primarily in New York City,
began in and around Manhattan in May 1997 and then returned to
Los Angeles, which doubled for the Big Apple. The filmmakers
chose New York because its urban landscape, with its towering
skyscrapers and world-famous locales from Wall Street to Central
Park, provided a backdrop befitting a creature of such epic proportions.
"We needed a location as big as Godzilla and, after Tokyo,
only New York has that kind of scale and drama," notes Fay.
Emmerich adds that "there are certain cities and skylines
you can cheat by using other locations, but New York is definitely
not one of them. It's such a well-known, American landmark."
This is not to say that filming in New York was an easy endeavor.
"Every movie has another set of problems," Emmerich
says philosophically. "A lot of the movie takes place in
New York and the creature itself, even if it isn't actually there,
is so big that we had to light many more buildings and city blocks
than we did in Independence Day. A lot of the things we
hoped to do in New York we couldn't do there; we had to create
total chaos and could only do it for a short period of time."
Specifically, the city only allowed the production, which shot
mostly at night, to clear the streets for filming after 8 p.m.
All the cameras, lights, trucks, related gear and equipment,
personnel and assorted hordes of extras had to evaporate by 6
a.m. A standard film day lasts roughly 12 hours; the city-imposed
restrictions, coupled with the short nights typical of spring
in New York, could have been terrible setbacks had Emmerich and
team not been so organized and efficient.
"We had lots of different, big locations, especially in
New York. Essentially, we ended up shooting the wide shots in
New York and cheating the tighter ones in Los Angeles," explains
cinematographer Ueli Steiger. "Every shot involved a lot
of specialized people. Cranes and musco lights were always involved,
and whenever we moved or turned around, we always had big, heavy
equipment to move as well. There was always a lot of debris and
gravel in the street [souvenirs from Godzilla's jaunt through
Manhattan], and the art department always had to rearrange it,
depending on the angle we were shooting. That made it incredibly
complicated. We had to be very clear about what we were shooting."
Steiger and crew approached this challenge with military precision.
"We had to pre-rig and pre-dress the street, which was difficult
because we didn't have much time. Because we shot on major streets
in New York, like Madison Avenue, it meant that everything had
to be planned. For us, lighting-wise, that was a really big deal
because at night, we saw a lot of the set in the shot. Roland
likes to work so that the scene isn't intercut much, so it means
the entire set-which in this case was several blocks in New York-is
in the shot. We had to be incredibly organized, like a military
operation, in order to pre-rig in such a short time."
While the crew scrambled to set up on the ground, co-producer
Peter Winther and visual effects supervisor Volker Engel got a
Godzilla's-eye view of the city, shooting it from helicopters
mounted with spacecams to mimic the creature's perspective of
Winther also experienced a less glamorous, more terrestrial view
of the city as producer of the second un
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