Knowing TV/Movie Shooting Locations: Hindering the Watching Experience?

For the past few years, I’ve become intrigued by finding out where TV shows and movies get filmed. In the past I just thought it was cool when I heard a movie was shooting somewhere in Ontario, didn’t really give it much thought beyond that. I’m guessing it’s safe to say that my interest piqued when I went to Los Angeles 2 years ago. It was my first time back to L.A. in about 5 years, so it was a different feeling being there at 21 than 16. Anyways, when I went I started doing research as to where some things were filmed. I really just ended up looking at where The O.C. used to be filmed.

Now I really started getting interested in where things were being filmed, especially in the Toronto area. Things really went to another level once I found out last year that Nikita was being filmed (mostly) in Toronto. I went into uber-fan mode: “OMG! They are filming in Toronto! I have to go there more often than I do! I could meet Maggie Q or Shane West!” I just thought it was the coolest thing EVER (kind of still is).

I went back to L.A. last December and decided to be my pop culture geek self and went on a tour of the Warner Brothers lot. Best $45 I spent. Being able to see the sets of these shows I love, it was a little unreal. I got to see Central Perk. I stood on the set of Chuck. It was so cool seeing the stages and even just the “regular town” sets.

There is a point in prefacing my blog with these stories, as I so often do. In the past year of watching television, it occurred to me that while it was cool finding out/knowing where some things were filmed, it took me out of watching the show. My suspension of disbelief was temporarily lifted when I knew exactly where something was filmed.

I remember when Nikita filmed for a day in my hometown of Cambridge. They posted in the local newspaper that the bridge in the downtown area was going to be shut down for the day for filming, and when I read it, I freaked knowing that I literally could go see Maggie Q. I made my attempts at trying to find and meet her, but luck was not on my side that day. When the episode (1×18, “Into the Dark”) aired, I got excited watching it but quickly realized I shouldn’t have been. The scenes that were filmed in Cambridge were meant to be a substitute for London, England, so as soon as they said they were in London, I’m like thinking “They’re in Cambridge!” Took me right out of it. Not to mention, as the scenes played out, I’d go “That’s City Hall! There’s the bridge! And the church near the bridge, etc.”

Back in October, after a concert, my friend and I had to go pick up her brother and drive him back with us. As we pulled onto the street where he lived, we saw all these crew trucks and I’m thinking “Are they filming something here? What are they filming? Is it Nikita?!” Short answer: Yes, it was ‘Nikita’ and apparently they’ve been there all week according to my friend’s brother (he didn’t even have the decency to tell us ahead of time.) I managed to catch a glimpse of Maggie Q when we passed by but couldn’t actually meet her. Again, the episode (2×08, “London Calling”) airs, and I’m like “Hey! I know where they filmed that!”, followed by “Damn it! I’m not supposed to know!” Didn’t help matters that in one of the scenes you can still see an Ontario license plate on one of the cars, when they’re supposedly in London (and there I go being one of those annoying people noticing goofs).

Most recently, I saw promo pictures for the upcoming episode (2×11, “Pale Fire”) and soon realized that they had come back to Cambridge to film part of the episode. Unfortunately, I was away on vacation at the time, or else you bet I would’ve known about it and went to find a way to meet Shane West and Devon Sawa. This is how bad it’s getting: I can tell from a picture where they’re filming, and the background was blurry because the focus of the pic was Shane and Devon.

Obviously my interest in knowing where ‘Nikita’ is being filmed is starting to hinder my TV watching experience. And it’s not just ‘Nikita’ that this happens. I’ve watched episodes of ‘Covert Affairs’ and ‘Suits’ where some shots, I’m like “That’s [insert street/place] in Toronto!” because I know those shows are shot in Toronto. Watching the second episode of ‘Hart of Dixie’, they introduced the Rammer Jammer, the local bar/hangout. The Rammer Jammer is also known as Merlotte’s from ‘True Blood’. How do I know that (besides from watching True Blood)? The tour guide pointed it out when I went on the WB Studio tour. From that point on, I’ve been watching ‘Hart of Dixie’ calling the Rammer Jammer, Merlotte’s, and wondering where on the WB lot they’re filming.

But the funny thing is I watch ‘Chuck’ and I don’t even think about the fact that I stood on the set. Same thing with watching ‘Friends’ re-runs – I don’t think about the fact that I saw Central Perk and sat on the couch.

Which leads me to wonder, at what point does knowing a shooting location affect how you watch TV? Is it different knowing that something is a set that was built specifically for that TV show, as opposed to something that’s a part of the world? Because clearly my issues of disbelief arise seeing the streets of Toronto + Cambridge being used as the streets of New York, Washington, London, etc. Also, how do people in LA and NY deal with this? Although I guess, when something is meant to be LA and it is shot in LA, it shouldn’t be such a problem.

Lesson from all this? Maybe I should be less obsessive about ‘Nikita’ and just in general, watch less TV….That’s most likely not going to happen.