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BROOKLYN'S FINEST

Brooklyn, The Projects And A New Opportunity
Brooklyn's Finest was shot on location at the Van Dyke projects in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, the community that produced world-champion boxers Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe, as well as the rappers RZA and U-God. Poverty and addiction have plagued the area for decades, and tales of gang violence almost sunk Fuqua's plan to film there.

Martin's script was originally set in another Brooklyn housing project, the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York. "I wanted to film in the location it was written for,” says Fuqua. "I believe in using real locations whenever you can because it helps me creatively be in the world. It helps the actors really smell it, walk it and be it every day. You got to engage with the people because they bring the energy and authenticity to it.”

Initially skeptical about putting their production into an area known for crime and violence, the producers eventually deferred to Fuqua's vision. "This movie is about Brooklyn, and about the grittiness and the beauty of it,” says producer Basil Iwanyk. "Both Antoine and I said we'd rather not make the movie than make it somewhere else. But I didn't realize it would be this intense. We had to make deals with gang members and the Nation of Islam for set security.”

And then there were the everyday distractions of a community that lives much of its life on the street. "There were kids running around and people just living their lives,” say Iwanyk. "At times we weren't sure who was cast and crew, and who were local people just walking onto the set. And we were there during one of the worst heat waves in the last five years.

"But all in all it was great,” he continues. "People were very respectful. And when Wesley Snipes was working in the projects, it was like John Lennon walked in.”

As creator and executive producer of the long-running reality show, ”COPS,” John Langley has spent time in many inner city neighborhoods. "Brownsville is a tough neighborhood, no doubt about it,” he says. "But while we were there, the people were extraordinarily cooperative. They were all cheering the project on because it was about their home turf. Everyone kept the peace so we could finish the film.”

Still, shooting in the projects at night had its challenges. "It wasn't because anyone gave us problems,” says Thompson. "It was just that the shoot created such curiosity we were always wading through thousands of people. A few takes were ruined. Motorists driving by saw two policemen rolling around on the sidewalk. The cameras were inside a restaurant, so they didn't see the film crew. A lot of people stopped to see what was going on.

"Overall, our experience was more than positive,” says Thompson. "It was an event for the people there. They' were very curious about how films are made, where we came from, and vice versa.”

As an active participant in the community, the production company tried to employ locals whenever possible. "We had art department production assistants, five or six actors in key roles and loads of extras,” says Thompson. "We hired local people on every level. Some were long term; some were on a daily basis. In the end, hundreds of people from the area worked for the film.”

The film's abbreviated shooting schedule was another challenge to be faced. "People said there was no way we could do a movie like this in 41 days on the streets of Brooklyn,” says Iwanyk. "Antoine came in like an athlete does. He came in to run a forty-one day race and nothing could discourage or distract him.”

Fuqua is himself still a little awed that they managed to pull it off. He gives an enormous amount of credit to the cast and crew. "I put Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke and all of the rest of the cast and crew in the projects with rats and cockroaches and whatever else,” he says. "I put them in situations that were a little dangerous and they were great. They dealt with pe

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