Filming for Batman TV prequel Gotham recreates grittier New York City
New York has been re-imagined as the grittier metropolis of the late 1970s and early 1980s for the Batman TV drama prequel Gotham. The show has filmed on location in the city but makes efforts to drain modern New York of its colour to support the drama’s darker tone.
Gotham is set years ahead of the first appearance of Batman. The show tells the story of James Gordon’s early career in the Gotham Police Department, long before he becomes a key police ally to the Caped Crusader. Although Batman is absent, Gordon finds himself dealing with early incarnations of villains including the Penguin, Catwoman and the Riddler.
“We believe that Gotham is kind of like New York was in the late 1970s and very early 80s, when the city was really at its roughest in recent history. Before the subways were cleaned up, when crime was high, when the city just felt pretty brutal. We see Gotham as existing in that world,” said Production Designer Doug Kramer in an interview with the Guardian.
The location selection process for the shoot involved finding places in New York that would have looked dangerous two decades ago and then dressing them to rediscover a sense of menace. Even blue skies on clear shoot days were digitally clouded over in post-production.
“We have to remove the nice topiaries in front of the lovely day spa,” Kramer added in the interview: “And we have to cover up the beautiful new bakery and coffee shop and replace it with the front end of an abandoned warehouse. So as we look, we try to get as close as we can. And if we can’t get there, we either fix it ourselves, or we fix it in post, digitally.”
Gotham is kind of like New York was in the late 1970s and very early 80s, when the city was really at its roughest in recent history.
Doug Kramer, Production Designer
Staten Island has in fact become a key filming location for the show because, as Kramer says, the island hasn’t yet an “architectural resurgence” on the same scale as Manhattan.
New York is one of the top production hubs in North America, partly due to its generous 30% filming incentive that has an annual fund of USD 420 million. The state will face a new challenge next year from California, which is boosting its own incentive offering in a long-overdue bid to bring big-budget features and high-end TV drama back to Hollywood.
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