New York production crews have a different set of battle scars from their peers out West. Just ask UPM Carol Cuddy, a lifelong right-coaster who has worked to get New York City location managers recognized by the Guild, and helped engage the mayor’s office when it revoked movie parking permits.
In a way, Cuddy, whose career has seesawed from low-budget indies such as Rachel Getting Married and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead to huge logistical challenges including The Interpreter and the upcoming Men in Black III, began at the top. Her first job was with renowned production manager Patricia Churchill and 1st AD Michael Hausman on the 1981 Oscar-nominated Ragtime.
“I shoveled the manure in the barns we used on East 11th Street and was thrilled to do it,” Cuddy laughs. “A woman in [this job] was not common back then. And I was so inspired by Pat, I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”
It took another decade to become a Guild UPM, a job Cuddy says suits her personality. “I don’t rattle easily and remain pretty calm, no matter how tough the situation.”
For instance, she was the first UPM to orchestrate shooting inside the United Nations. The Interpreter, directed by Sydney Pollack, was given 34 weekend days to get the job done, with rigging crews moving gear in Friday nights for Saturday and Sunday filming.
“Every piece of equipment had to be out by Monday morning,” Cuddy recalls. “They had security dogs sniffing every crate, and we had to wear ID badges and be hand-searched every day. Fortunately, it went great and after that they started letting other productions in to shoot.”
But not all government locations go so smooth. Cuddy remembers shooting a scene for Silkwood in an office overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue. “Right after we started filming, a parade started outside. I called the permit office and asked, ‘How, what, where, when,’ and they said to call the parade office, and they said it wasn’t going away anytime soon. The only solution was for director Mike Nichols to change the scene’s dialogue to say something about there always being parades in Washington, D.C.”
Cuddy says large East Coast shoots are always a challenge because the number of equipment rental houses is limited. “In L.A. you can pick from seven or eight vendors on every show, but in New York, you may have one, or none at all,” she notes. “We had to fly in dollies for the live concerts for Shine a Light, because we used every single one in New York City.”
Men in Black III, which wrapped this past May after 15 months of on-and-off scheduling, was the mother of all Big Apple shoots, she says. More than 2,000 people worked on the film, which “required the smallest type size in the history of movie call sheets,” cracks Cuddy.
Shooting Remember Me in Brooklyn, with Twilight star Robert Pattinson, may have been even worse. “The police in New York are not allowed to physically remove the paparazzi,” Cuddy explains, “and their cameras were so loud the DP actually begged them to stop before the sun went down.”
Keeping everyone happy, and on budget, is always a fine line for a UPM. But Cuddy says she embraces any opportunity to boost morale. “One of our set dressers on The Departed decided to get married while we were on location in Boston,” she says. “So we made it this big production event. We got the hotel to give us a ballroom, ordered this multitiered wedding cake, decorated the place, and invited the whole crew. Afterwards, the bride and groom had their photos taken with each department.”