At the ribbon cutting for Steiner Studios earlier this month, The Observer caught up with Voice of the City Lena Dunham, who had just moved production for the second season of her feverish hit Girls to the studio in Brooklyn. Gretchen Mol of Boardwalk Empire was up on stage, looking radiant beside the mayor and Doug Steiner, but Ms. Dunham hid in the back of the sound stage.
It was actually her first day at the studios, she said, but her experience helps underscore why the city needs more and bigger studios if it is going to continue to grow its film and television industry. (Also, there wasn’t room in our profile of Doug Steiner for Ms. Dunham, but we figure giving her her own post should drive some good Google hits to Observer.com, what with the ultra-buzz humming around Girls at the moment.)
“I’m very excited to be here,” Ms. Dunham told The Observer of her arrival at Steiner Studios. “I love the Navy Yards, it’s such a cool, historic place.” Somehow we could not help but think of that scene from Tiny Furniture where she has sex with the chef inside a giant pipe somewhere in nearby Dumbo.
“I think we’re going to do some ghost hunting,” she added of her enthusiasm for the historic 300 acre property, which dates to the Civil War.
Girls shot its first season at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, but it had to move to Steiner for its second because CBS’ Person of Interest had become an unexpected hit and was taking more space at Silvercup. “You can judge by the posters that this is a good place to be,” Ms. Dunham said of Steiner Studios, which has lined the lobbies with its past work.
Though The Observer knew she had only been here a day, we asked which studio she preferred. “They’re all good in their own way,” Ms. Dunham replied. “I have to say that because I could be working at any of them.”
She said she thought the food was better in Long Island City, but her producer, Ilene Landress, said it was actually better here, with Williamsburg, Fort Greene and Dumbo just a short walk away.
“At the end of the day, it’s doesn’t matter where I work,” Ms. Landress said. “Whether it’s Silvercup or Steiner, it comes down to supply and demand, the shape and size of the production and the budget we have to work with.”
This is the same thing Stuart Suna, co-founder of Silvercup Studios had pointed out to The Observer in a telephone interview last month—a rising tide and all that. But he was quick to point out that just because Steiner now has the largest studio in the city does not necessarily mean it is the better one.
“It is not how big the stages are but how good the shows actually are,” he said. “Let the awards tell the story.”
One person who is happy with her options is Gretchen Mol. Being able to work in New York has been a thrill, something The Observer heard repeated again and again from cast and crew on the various New York productions. The thinking often is that the architecture, the buildings, the locations, even the light are what matters when shooting in New York, which is true to a point: what’s important is being close to home.
“For me, I’m from Connecticut originally, and I moved here, and I just love working here,” Ms. Mol said. “I love being about to work in Brooklyn and not have to move my family all over the place.”
There is another unexpected benefit. “It’s nice that the extras look like real people,” Ms. Mol said. “That makes my job so much easier because you look around and it’s real, it’s not like you’re pretending.”
Hollywood is fake. Brooklyn is real.