Name: Katherine Oliver
Hometown: Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Title: Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.
Claim to fame: When Will Smith makes his way around a desolate New York City in “I Am Legend,” Ms. Oliver is the one who made it happen. Her department authorizes and coordinates television, film and commercial shoots in New York City. It also runs the city’s media operations, on television, radio and the Web.
Giving Hollywood a Hand: “When I started in 2002, there was this perceived hassle-factor of working in New York City,” Ms. Oliver said, citing an office full of electric typewriters and a three-day wait for a film permit.
Her department, which has existed since the 1960s, teamed up with the city and the state to make it easier and cheaper to shoot in the five boroughs. They created ax credits, streamlined operations and offered some free advertising on city platforms like bus shelters. They also bought computers for the permit office.
Since Ms. Oliver came over with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg from Bloomberg LP, where she was the general manager of Bloomberg Radio and Television, production in New York City has risen more than 97 percent, she said.
“A lot of people are intimidated about shooting in New York City because it’s a busy city,” she said. “What we’ve tried to do is to convey: “No it’s simple; it’s a one stop shop. Come to our office.’ ”
Dollars and Cents: Whether directors want to drag a camera across a sleepy street in Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn or through a bustling crowd in Union Square, they do not have to pay a fee to realize their city vision, so long as they are filming on the street or in a city park. A filming permit costs $300.
Some shoots, however, still cost money.
Late last year, for example, the makers of a movie called “Tower Heist,” staring Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller, wanted to recreate part of the Thanksgiving Day parade. So early on a Saturday morning in December, the Snoopy balloon was inflated and set afloat on Central Park West.
The city incurred some costs — traffic officers had to be paid — and the production company picked up the tab.
Lights, Camera, Jobs: According to Ms. Oliver, the central mission of her office is to bring jobs to the city.
“There are thousands of people that are involved in the production,” she said. “But then when you think about it, it’s the restaurants, it’s the dry cleaners, it’s the copier center, it’s the coffee shops, the health clubs, so many businesses — the florists! — that benefit from film and television production.”
Florists aside, productions that tend to hire more people are the ones that are most desired. A feature film, for example, needs a cadre of actors and scriptwriters that a documentary does not.
Perk of the Job: As the Tinseltown gatekeeper, Ms. Oliver gets to rub elbows with the well-chiseled likes of George Clooney and Robert De Niro. She is scheduled to meet Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” fame on Friday.
“It’s a tough job,” she said with a smile. “But somehow, I make it work.”
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