November 29, 2023

Debriefing: Questions for Paul Kostick, Location Scout

As a location scout, location manager and producer, Mr. Kostick, who lives in the East Village with his wife and two children, has spent nearly two decades checking out every possible locale, including countless houses and apartments, largely in the five boroughs, to see if they qualify for star turns in movies, television shows, commercials and videos.

Q How would you describe what you do?

A It’s like detective work. You’re always trying to find a one-of-a-kind place, one that no one has ever seen before. But the location also has to work from a technical point of view. And it has to please a lot of people — the client, the production designer, the art team and most of all the director.

Q How many locations in the city have you visited?

A Easily over 10,000 locations. For just one movie, you could be looking at several hundred locations over a solid month. You might see three places in an hour. I’ve probably taken 400,000 pictures. That’s just digital.

Q What strikes you about the places you’ve seen?

A I get to see the ways people live, so many extremes. I’ve seen SoHo lofts with a closet as big as some people’s apartments, and it’s just the shoe closet. I remember an apartment in the West Village so small the kids slept in the kitchen. What people will do to live in New York is amazing.

Q What are some of the most impressive things you’ve seen?

A I’ve seen places with museum collections on the walls — Rothkos and Basquiat paintings. I’ve seen some amazing triplexes in TriBeCa that would blow your mind. I remember a living room in Brooklyn that was filled with vintage Porsches.

Q The worst place?

A There was a place in Carroll Gardens before the neighborhood popped. When I talked to the owner on the phone, the guy was thrilled, said he couldn’t wait for me to pay a visit. When I arrived, there was three feet of garbage on the floor, plus this terrible odor. I politely took some pictures, and then the guy said, “So what do you think?” I said: “It’s great. I’ll let you know.” What else can you say?

Q What makes people want to have their home used as a film site?

A Nobody’s ever going to earn a living, but the money, which can range from $1,000 a day up to $40,000 a day for super-high end, can pay for a nice vacation or go to a kid’s college fund. But most people do it because it’s fun. It’s cool. They’re flattered to be chosen. Your home might be in the next “Law Order” or Cheerios commercial.

Q And the downsides?

A Most people have no idea what’s involved. There are dozens of people in your home for 18 hours a day. It’s hugely disruptive, which is why people may decide to move out and stay in a hotel, which the production sometimes pays for. New York film crews generally try hard to take care of people’s homes, but floors get scratched, the silk wallpaper can accidentally get ripped. Once we got permission to knock down a wall to allow for certain camera angles. We rebuilt it, then after three weeks, we had to knock it down again.

Q People are sometimes amazed at how different their homes look on screen. Why?

A You may have incredible furniture and great taste. But the space has to work for the client’s or movie’s needs first — the plot, the character, the color palette. The art director says, “It’s great, but I want it blue.” So during the prep period, we get rid of some things we love but don’t work. We might remove all your furniture and bring in our own. We’ll ask if we can repaint the walls. We cover your appliances with stainless steel Contact Paper or replace the doors on your $10,000 fridge. We never just walk in and shoot.

Q How do you find locations?

A I always have my camera with me. I’m always looking, always taking notes. There are also location services, like Andrea Raisfeld Locations, Featured in Films or the Location Department. When we zero in on a neighborhood we want, sometimes we blanket an area with fliers. We talk to doormen. Maybe we get 40 callbacks. Seven places will work, and the director likes one. So you need a lot of choice.

Q What makes a home a good place to film?

A It has to do with the bones of a building, the layout, the flow. How can you place a camera in a space and make the space look interesting? How much depth can you see through a doorway? Prewar is always great. Those Classic 6’s on Riverside Drive and West End Avenue are perfect.

Q What makes a place not work?

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BUSINESS: Business Day Live | Brooklyn Exports

September 21, 2012

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You’re the Boss Blog: How a Doctor’s Web Site Can Generate More Business

Site Analysis

What’s wrong with this Web site?

Last week, my post asked whether visiting a service provider’s Web site made you want to use the service.

As you may recall, the Web site belonged to Dr. Debra Jaliman, a Manhattan-based dermatologist, and it provided much of the information you would expect: Dr. Jaliman’s education and credentials, an explanation of her services and a page showing the extensive media coverage that has come her way. In addition, Dr. Jaliman has developed a line of skin care products that she sells on the site.

We asked readers of this column to check out the site out and to offer their feedback. And what was the verdict? Well, the most succinct answer to the question posed in the headline — “Does this service provider’s Web site make you want the service?” — came from Technic Ally of Toronto, who responded, simply, “No.” The opinion seemed to be shared by most of the readers who chose to comment.

So What’s Wrong With the Site?

A service provider’s Web site needs to do more than just establish expertise; it must also establish a level of trust. Dr. Jaliman offers plenty of information on her site about her training, experience and expertise, but readers found it hard to get to the heart of that information. They felt overwhelmed by a huge amount of content that is not well organized.

“There is way too much information on your site,” wrote Bond. “Remove 80% of it. Rewrite copy to get to the point.”

Or as Karen in Brooklyn put it: “She needs to hire a professional copy writer; she can say the same things more effectively, with fewer words!”

For example, showing how the media treat you can be a great way to demonstrate expertise and credibility, but Dr. Jaliman’s press page is crammed with television, magazine and newspaper links. As Heather in New York pointed out, “All the media exposure is good, but that page is a mess. Split out the print from the television clips, consider a carousel where you’ve got just one video portal image, and then users can choose which clip to watch in that space. All those embedded clips down the page are not working for you.”

The Pink Sweater Lady“The pink sweater lady”

Other readers took issue with the way Dr. Jaliman has presented herself on the site, issues that may be making it harder for her to establish trust. In particular, multiple commenters objected to the photograph of her on the home page.

Marsha from San Francisco wrote: “I’m sure that Dr. J is extremely professional and competent, but the photo of her undercuts her power and credibility. She needs a sharp, smart outfit and/or lab coat, not a cardigan (particularly not one posed as it is here).”

Amy in Nevada wrote, “The pink sweater lady is the doctor? I thought that was the ‘after’ photo for a Las Vegas plastic surgeon. I would not trust this woman for any cosmetic procedure given the design sensibility revealed on her site.”

In the days after these comments were posted, Dr. Jaliman removed the photo from the site. Below is the updated top navigation without the pink-sweater photo.

Without the pink sweater lady.Without “the pink sweater lady.”

Another common critique focused on Dr. Jaliman’s double duty as both a doctor and as a purveyor of a personal line of skin-care products. There seemed to be a strong sense that by dabbling in sales she was undercutting any trust she might be trying to create.

Jen in New York wrote: “The products make me doubt the service. I’m sorry, but I definitely have a bias, which is that if someone is really great at providing a service, that’s what they should feature. I feel that if they sell stuff, maybe they’re not so good at the service part. The converse also true: I wouldn’t go to CVS for a dermatology treatment.”

Another reader, also a service provider with products to sell — albeit products that are very different from those sold by Dr Jaliman — explained how he approaches the issue. “Why would you try and promote a service and a product line in the same site?” asked Zack from Philadelphia, who sells cleaning supplies. “They are two completely different markets you are going after, they require separate strategies. We have two independent sites, an e-commerce site for commercial cleaning products and a site for our professional cleaning service, respectively. This allows for better analytics, better usability and better conversion rates. We are eliminating needless spending on marketing because we have a deep understanding of our successes and failures for each market and channel.”

My Take

When it comes to Web sites for services providers, there is a simple formula for success: Establish your expertise. Gain the trust of your visitors. And give them an easy way to get in touch with you.

Visitors come to you with one basic question: “Do you answer my need?” They are looking for something. They want you to tell them simply how you can serve their needs and they want you to make it easy for them to take the next step. Above all, they want to  know whether you answer that need better than your competitors do.

It doesn’t matter if you are a lawyer, a doctor, a plumber or a financial adviser. The rules are the same. There is a lot of competition out there; use your Web site to convince people to choose you. In Dr. Jaliman’s case, she has all the tools to do so. She has great credentials and a thriving practice, and she is recognized as an expert in her field.

The problem is that her Web site is not getting the message across. It needs to emphasize a simple, clear message. When I work with service providers, one of the first things I suggest is that they make a video. It doesn’t have to be a Hollywood production. Just tell the camera what you would tell prospective clients. Recreate the experience of having them talk to you in your office.

As for the products she’s trying to sell, I’m not as convinced as some that they don’t belong on the site. But until she does a better job of selling herself as a trustworthy dermatologist, the products will dilute her message. The good news for Dr. Jaliman is that it isn’t going to take a huge overhaul to fix what’s wrong. Get rid of the clutter. “Sell” your expertise with a video. Establish your points of differentiation quickly and clearly. Present your services clearly. Provide large “calls to action” to get visitors to request more information or make an appointment.

Dr. Jaliman Responds

While Dr. Jaliman didn’t agree with all of the points made by the commenters, she found their critiques useful and on point. “Most of the comments were spot on and reinforced the suspicions I already had,” she said. “Your readers were certainly astute. It’s hard to get an honest appraisal; most of the time, people are reluctant to speak frankly, because they don’t want to hurt my feelings.”

She has taken the comments to heart, and she said she intends to make more changes as soon as she can: “I plan to de-clutter, get rid of the stock photos, get a group photo of the staff, get a photo of me in a white coat, revamp and shorten the text, change the link to my upcoming book so it mentions St. Martin’s Press and has links to Amazon and Barnes Noble, change the font to make it easier to read, remove the ‘Promotions’ tab, and remove the section on the home page that allows people to ask for appointments (should be in “Contact us”). Your readers gave me plenty of ideas.”

Would you like to have your business’s Web site or mobile app critiqued? This is an opportunity for companies looking for an honest (and free) appraisal of their online presence and marketing efforts.

To be considered, please tell me about your experiences — why you started your site, what works, what doesn’t, why you would like to have the site reviewed — in an e-mail to

Gabriel Shaoolian is the founder and chief executive of
Blue Fountain Media, a Web design, development and marketing company based in New York.

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Wall Street Protest Spurs Online Conversation

Inspired by the populist message of the group known as Occupy Wall Street, more than 200 Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have sprung up in dozens of cities during the past week, seeking volunteers for local protests and fostering discussion about the group’s concerns.

Some 900 events have been set up on, and blog posts and photographs from all over the country are popping up on the WeArethe99Percent blog on Tumblr from people who see themselves as victims of not just a sagging economy but also economic injustice.

“I don’t want to be rich. I don’t want to live a lavish lifestyle,” wrote a woman on Tumblr, describing herself as a college student worried about the burden of student debt. “I’m worried. I’m scared, thinking about the future shakes me. I hope this works. I really hope this works.”

The online conversation has grown at the same time that street protests have taken place in several other cities last week, including Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington. A Web site, Occupy Together, is trying to aggregate the online conversations and the off-line activities.

“We are not coordinating anything,” said Justin Wedes, 26, a former high school science teacher from Brooklyn who helps manage one of the movement’s main Twitter accounts, @OccupyWallStNYC. “It is all grass roots. We are just trying to use it to disseminate information, tell stories, ask for donations and to give people a voice.”

To help get the word out about a rally at 3 p.m. Saturday in Washington Square Park, the group turned to its Facebook and Twitter accounts. “If you are one of the 99 percent, this is your meeting,” the Facebook invitation said. Nearly 700 people replied on Facebook saying that they would be there.

While people in New York are still dominating the conversation on Twitter, an analysis of Twitter data on Friday showed that almost half of the posts were made in other parts of the country, primarily in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, as well as Texas, Florida and Oregon, according to Trendrr, a social media analytics firm.

Mark Ghuneim, founder and chief executive officer of Trendrr, said the Twitter conversation was producing an average of 10,000 to 15,000 posts an hour on Friday about Occupy Wall Street, with most people sharing links from news sites, Tumblr, YouTube and Trendsmap.

Washington’s National Air and Space Museum was closed after demonstrators tried to enter the building with signs.

“This is more of a growing conversation than something massive as we have seen from hurricanes and with people passing away,” Mr. Ghuneim said. “The conversation for this has a strong and steady heartbeat that is spreading. We’re seeing the national dialogue morph into pockets of local and topic-based conversation.”

In Egypt, the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook page was started 10 months before the uprising last January to protest police brutality. The page had more than 400,000 members before it was used to help propel protesters into Tahrir Square. Occupy Wall Street’s Facebook page began a few weeks ago and has 138,000 members.

Yet it represents only a sliver of the conversation taking place on Facebook about the group’s anticorporate message. Unlike in Egypt, where people found one another on one Facebook page, geographically based Occupy Facebook pages have cropped up, reflecting the loosely organized approach of the group. These Occupy pages around the country are being used not only to echo the issues being discussed in New York about jobs, corporate greed and budget cuts, but also to talk about other problems closer to home.

In Tennessee, for example, there is an Occupy Tennessee Facebook page, as well as pages for Occupy Memphis, Occupy Knoxville, Occupy Clarksville, Occupy Chattanooga, Occupy Murfreesboro and Occupy Nashville, which helped get out the word about a lunchtime protest in Nashville’s Legislative Plaza on Friday that drew several hundred protesters with some bearing signs with the movement’s motto: “We are the 99 percent.”

The center of the movement’s media operation is in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, where several hundred people have been camping since Sept. 17. On Friday morning, operation central consisted of a few tables and chairs clustered around a generator, with a few volunteers editing video, posting updates for the group’s social media sites on laptops and staffing the live video feed for a channel called Global Revolution on

Michael Fix, 47, a film producer who recently returned to New York from Brazil to support the group’s efforts, helps oversee three teams of volunteers who produce videos for YouTube, including a daily report, recapping the group’s activities.

“We try to tell stories about why we are here,” Mr. Fix said. “It helps inspire and educate people about the issues.”

On YouTube, at least 10,000 videos tagged “occupy wall street” have been uploaded in the past month. A video showing female protesters being fencing in and sprayed with pepper spray by the police is the most viewed of the protest, according to Matt McLernon, a spokesman for YouTube.

In addition to the videos posted from New York, Mr. McLernon said, videos have also been uploaded from Boston, Seattle, San Antonio and St. Louis, as well as from Oklahoma and Vermont.

Showing that YouTube can be used by both sides, the New York Police Department has uploaded its own videos of the protests on YouTube, including of the massive demonstration at the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1 that led to 700 arrests. But the group is not relying exclusively on social media platforms or the Internet to deliver its message. The second edition of The Occupied Wall Street Journal, a four-page broadsheet, was published on Saturday.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 8, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of one of the movement’s main Twitter accounts. It is @OccupyWallStNYC, not @OccupyWallStreetNYC.

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Mortgages: Saving on Mortgage Taxes

Not all lenders permit such transfers, but if both do, borrowers can skip paying a second helping of mortgage recording taxes (they paid the first round when they bought the home).

New York State charges a mortgage recording tax of 0.5 percent of the loan, and with other special taxes added in, New York City residents pay a total of 1.8 percent on loans under $500,000, state tax included, and 1.925 percent for those at or above that amount. Among the various counties, total mortgage taxes in Westchester and Rockland run 1.3 percent, while in Nassau, Suffolk, Dutchess, Orange and Putnam it’s 1.05 percent.  

There is no mortgage recording tax in New Jersey or Connecticut, according to Michael Moskowitz, the president of Equity Now, a direct mortgage lender. Co-op owners are also absolved from paying, because they hold shares in a building rather than real property, explained Lawrence F. DiGiovanna, a Brooklyn real estate lawyer.

But for those who are hit with this tax, it can certainly add up at the closing. On a $450,000 refinanced loan, a borrower living in New York City can expect to pay an additional $8,100.

Instead of granting and recording a new loan when a borrower refinances, the assignment process transfers a mortgage to a new lender, which then revises it.  Lenders sometimes call the process a “Consolidation, Extension or Modification Agreement,” or “Modification, Extension, Consolidation Agreement.”

It’s important to inquire about a mortgage assignment at the very beginning of the refinancing process, mortgage experts say, because locating and transferring all the necessary paperwork could be time-consuming. If the mortgage has been sold or handed off to a servicing company, the homeowner must get that company to sign on.

Once borrowers have determined that their new and old lenders will work with them on the loan assignment, they must “understand what the potential savings are and weigh that against the overall cost of doing this,” said Marc Kunen, the Manhattan branch manager for Mortgage Master, a mortgage banker.

Yes, there is a cost. Borrowers still have to pay assignment fees. Each bank typically charges several hundred dollars to $1,500, or more, according to Equity Now, which keeps a database on New York-area assignment fees.

If you’re refinancing a low loan balance, say $100,000 or less, it may not be worthwhile to assign, Mr. Moskowitz said, adding that paying the tax may be easier and cost the same or less than the fee.

Borrowers must keep in mind, too, that only the balance from the old loan is sheltered from the mortgage tax. Anything added to the loan amount — perhaps to pay for home renovations or consolidate debts — would be taxed.

Even though most banks have established procedures for assignments, sometimes there are snags that can add days or weeks to the process. “Do not lock in your rate until you understand what the time parameters are expected to be,” Mr. DiGiovanna said.

He also suggests that borrowers examine the new lender’s commitment letter, so they understand the stipulations that need to be met for refinancing.

Occasionally banks will not be able to locate an original loan and related documents. If the original lender still is operating, those documents can be recreated, said Stephen Chiaino, an associate in Mr. DiGiovanna’s law firm. The new lender probably will not accept the homeowner’s documents, unless they are certified copies, he added.

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Bits: Arrests Likely in Hacker Group Case

Jon Nazca/Reuters

Federal authorities in Washington are expected to announce charges on Tuesday against roughly a dozen suspected members of the activist hacker group Anonymous, officials said.

The charges, brought by federal prosecutors in New Jersey, California and Florida, focus on cyber attacks and unauthorized access to computer systems, one law-enforcement official said.

Earlier Tuesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed three search warrants in connection with the hacker group, law-enforcement officials said. Two of the raids were executed at homes on Long Island, while the other raid took place in an apartment building in Brooklyn. The authorities said they seized computers in the raid.

The authorities said the executed search warrants were related to a case under investigation in the Northern District of California.

Anonymous has been at the center of the news lately with members of the loosely organized group ramping up attacks on corporate and government Web sites. In recent months the group has started to call its efforts AntiSec, or Anti Security, and says it hopes to expose security flaws online.

Anonymous has claimed responsibility in the past for attacking MasterCard and Visa in an effort to assist the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. The group has also attacked sites related to the Church of Scientology.

The New York raids were first reported by

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