White Collar Takes To The New York Streets

Cannes Film Festival

USA Networks


Jeff Eastin knew it was in his blood to create a buddy-driven, crime-based comedy set on the streets of New York.


“I grew up on ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ’48 Hours’,” said Eastin.  “The chemistry between these characters – I always wanted to do something capturing those feelings.”


“White Collar” a character-driven television show focusing on two leads: one an FBI agent, the other a con man, was the result of this urge.   Needing a right-hand man to help develop the script into a series, Eastin recruited Mark Goffman, a veteran writer/producer for “The West Wing” and “Law and Order.”


Although Eastin was entranced with the energy and the look of New York, he had never traveled to the city.  The Californian native didn’t allow this speed bump to slow him down. 


“I used Google Street View when I was writing the pilot,” said Eastin.  “It really helped me out in creating some authenticity.”


As the first season continued, however, scripts provided by LA-based writers illustrated that the lack of knowledge about the cityscape was not their only problem.  There were also a number of cultural differences between the lifestyles of the affluent in Los Angeles versus New York City that weren’t taken into consideration when scripts were greenlit.  One particular episode involving a rooftop swimming pool required two months of location scouting.  Another episode requiring a private garage housing two Lamborghinis resulted in the crew traveling to Long Island, which impacted the production’s shooting schedule.


“We strive to get it right, but it can be really awful when you get it wrong,” said Eastin.


To help ensure accuracy, the location crew submits notable locations they find in advance to the writers so they may work them into upcoming story lines.  Each episode’s main writer is also sent to New York where they remain on set during the production to assist however they’re needed.


Although the writing for the New York setting initially provided unexpected challenges, Eastin is pleased that the city is the base for his show. 


“Every person on set is local, from the crew to the actors,” said Eastin.  “All the leads moved to New York as well.  We have a completely local production.  80% of every episode is shot in Manhattan.  For studio work we use Silver Cup East.  New York is the most production friendly place to shoot.  You just point the camera out a window and you get a great product.”


Prior to the commencement of shooting the series, Eastin reached out to the New York City Film Commission and worked with them to utilize the benefits of the production incentive tax break.  Without the financial help of the incentive, Eastin feels the extra expense of the production would hurt the quality of the show.


“We absolutely wouldn’t be able to do the show without the tax break,” said Eastin.  


“We’re shooting the second season now, and we’re attracting great actors and crew.  We’re getting our top choices,” added Goffman.