Quick—name one of the most demanding and satisfying jobs in all of the film industry. If you said being a New York City location manager, you win. That job has given Carla Raij a dozen years of heartaches and triumphs only the Big Apple can provide. “New York City is like an onion,” the longtime 2nd AD/location manager relates from her home in Brooklyn. “You keep peeling back layers and find something original.”
Closing down the Brooklyn Bridge to stage a massive multiple vehicle collision for Marc Forster’s Stay was one such adventure. Raij spent months negotiating with various city agencies to secure the iconic location. Burning and exploding cars for eight straight nights had officials worried about a public panic, given the relative proximity to 9-11. “We had to make sure radio alerts and street displays were going all night so people knew it was only a movie shoot,” Raij explains. “We had 60 traffic agents each night, re-routing traffic so people could still get into Manhattan.”
Cars are one thing, people are quite another. For the Adam Sandler comedy, Little Nicky, directed by Steven Brill, Raij needed to shoot right in front of Grand Central Station. The call was set for a weekday before the upcoming New York City Marathon. However, just as the cameras began to roll, 42nd Street went deathly quiet and traffic disappeared. “The first AD screamed, ‘Carla! What’s going on?’” Raij remembers. “We looked down the street and saw 1,000 runners heading into our shot. The city had neglected to tell me about the United Nations Run, which takes place the Friday before the marathon.”
Mastering the challenges of the city has prepared her well to work with New York’s most favored son, Martin Scorsese, even when it’s hundreds of miles away in Boston. For the climactic rooftop scene in The Departed, Raij had closed a deal on a location days before the scene was to shoot when Scorsese asked if she could find something better. “The producer told me to go stand on every other roof on that street and personally tell Marty there was nothing better,” Raij sighs. “I remember calling [the producer] from a rooftop nine buildings down and across the street to say, ‘We’re in trouble. There is something better.’” Raij closed a new deal in seven hours.
“Location work is about asking people who have nothing to do with moviemaking to take a leap of faith,” Raij concludes. “Passion, commitment, and demonstrating you’re a decent and honorable person all go a very long way.”