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Visibility and risks increase when the camera rolls


Silverstein Properties Inc. may be best known for its iconic New York buildings, so it's hardly surprising that production companies would like to use some of them as sets for television shows, movies and commercials.

Silverstein welcomes the opportunity to raise its profile and to generate revenue by putting unrented space to good use. But Shari Natovitz, the developer's senior vice president and director of risk management, said doing so can mean dealing with a situation involving the filming of a commercial featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and 150 extras, as well as a pair of llamas.

Putting unused space to good use as a sound set also means making sure that Silverstein isn't taking on risk it doesn't want, Ms. Natovitz said.

“The issues include preinspection and consultation to assure thing are done in a safe manner to protect the people more than even the building,” she said.

And contracts have to ensure that the parties actively creating the risk are also assuming the risk, she added.

That becomes a challenge in that while a commercial may be done for a major manufacturer or a movie may be coming out from a major studio, “they hire independent contractors and production companies to do those things for them, who have very minimal insurance.

“It's a challenge because I have a group that wants to do that, because it creates revenue because of the visibility,” she said. “But I'm the tempering voice that says let's make sure we can do it safely so that revenue and that reputation don't get marred by an accident or anything else.

“We get requests all the time, and part of the challenge — because this is not the typical wheelhouse for a real estate development company — becomes making sure our company can both accommodate the parties that would like to use the properties and take advantage of the opportunities for revenue and visibility,” she said.

But the company also has to ensure that it doesn't disrupt the operations of the buildings. “We work closely with our building management staff to ensure that and make sure it's being done safely,” Ms. Natovitz said.

“In some instances, we had our safety person preinspect the area and discuss with the production company how the shots were going to be set up to make sure we recognized — and they recognized — all of the issues and made sure they were covered by contract,” she said.

The use of Silverstein properties as production sets can also lead to a few surprises, Ms. Natovitz said.

For example, the movie “Annie” was filmed in 2013 at 4 World Trade Center, she said. Daddy Warbucks' penthouse was constructed on one of the empty floors on that building, and 7 World Trade Center was used for exterior and lobby shots for the movie.

“I came into work one day, and the Silverstein name was gone and replaced with another,” she said. “It took a few moments to realize this was just the site of the movie. My first reaction was I thought we sold the building — who are these people?

“Because of where our buildings are and particularly because they're downtown, and large and very tall, during the time they were vacant we've had "Law and Order' filmed here, "The Blacklist,' and the last episode of "Person of Interest' for this season will be filmed at 120 Broadway.”

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