Monday, October 31, 2011

Case Study No. 0036: Staff of the New York Public Library

Who You Gonna Call?
Behind-the-scenes: 2010/05/18/ who-you-gonna-call/

For our latest mission, we brought the movie Ghostbusters to life in the reading room of The New York Public Library at 42 Street. The 1984 movie begins with a scene in the very same room, so we figured it was time for the Ghostbusters to make an encore appearance.

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Edited by Matt Adams:

Song by Tyler Walker

Space provided by the New York Public Library

This is one of over 100 different missions Improv Everywhere has executed over the past eight years in New York City. Others include Frozen Grand Central, the Food Court Musical, and the famous No Pants Subway Ride, to name a few. Visit the website to see tons of photos and video of all of our work, including behind the scenes information on how this video was made.

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New York Public Library visitors got quite the surprise when comedy troupe, Improv Everywhere, dressed up as the "Ghostbusters" and reenacted a scene from the famed movie about a trio of down-on-their-luck guys who turn to supernatural-seeking in order to make some money.

Though the pranksters were easily recognizable in their specter-exterminating gear, it's not as clear exactly which scene they were reenacting. Regardless, there they were in the hallowed literary halls of the Library's Rose Main Reading Room, dressed as the team of supernatural slayers, chasing around actors draped in Halloween-costumey white sheets. Observers' expressions -- those who dared to peek up from their books and laptops -- ranged from giddily amused to frightened to the typical New York "seen it all" blase.

And let's be honest: This is just a video of four guys in pajamas chasing around a couple of guys wearing sheets while a knockoff version of Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" theme plays in the background. (Ironic, considering that the song "Ghostbusters" is, itself, allegedly, a knockoff of Huey Lewis and the News' "I Want a New Drug.") Improv Everywhere did confirm that the music playing is an original composition that they have the complete rights to (hopefully Huey Lewis agrees with them more than he agreed with Ray Parker Jr.)

Really, the idea alone of visiting the New York Public Library dressed as the Ghostbusters is what makes this appealing. And, apparently, the library thought the same thing; surprisingly, it was the library that contacted the troupe -- which is infamous for its anarchic displays in public places -- about the idea. The New York Public Library is facing massive budget cuts and hopes to raise awareness through its Don't Close the Book campaign. And this video, they hope, will help raise the awareness of the $34 million in funding that is said to be on the chopping block.

An opening scene of the 1984 comedy smash "Ghostbusters" does take place at the New York Public Library. Columbia University researchers -- Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler (aka, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis) -- are on location investigating a paranormal occurrence. The scene ends with the three future Ghostbusters fleeing down the outside steps of the library after having been chased by a quite angry ghost. Unlike the comedy troupe's version, at this point in the movie, the three researchers were not yet called the Ghostbusters and did not yet wear their now-iconic jumpsuits. Also, Winston Zeddemore, the fourth Ghostbuster, had yet to join the group.



edited by Matt Adams / song by Tyler Walker

For our latest mission, we brought the movie Ghostbusters to life in the reading room of The New York Public Library at 42 Street. The 1984 movie begins with a scene in the very same room, so we figured it was time for the Ghostbusters to make an encore appearance.

Shot by: Matt Adams, Brian Fountain, Erik Martin, Caleb Heller, Kristopher Knight, and Ariane West
Photography: Katie Sokoler and Brian Fountain
Ghostbusters: Kevin Hines, Rob Lathan, Justin Purnell, Alex Scordelis
Ghosts: Ben Rodgers, Amos Vernon, Tyler Walker

The New York Public Library approached us about a month ago and asked if we would want to stage an Improv Everywhere mission on their property. The library is facing serious budget cuts, and they thought having us do something awesome there might serve to remind people of how great the NYPL is. We couldn't say no to the opportunity to do something in their gorgeous, 100 year-old Rose Main Reading Room.

It actually wasn't the first time we staged something on the NYPL grounds. Back in 2002, we held a ridiculous protest claiming to be a group called Writers Against Piracy. That mission was, of course, unauthorized. It was nice to get invited by the library this time around and to have their permission to set up our cameras. When brainstorming ideas for the mission, I immediately thought of Ghostbusters. The NYPL is heavily featured in the beginning of the movie, opening with a crane shot of the lion statue outside and cutting to the reading room. The thought of bringing the Ghostbusters back to the library 25 years later cracked me up.

We met on the steps out front and got organized. Agent Adams came up with a plan to spread our team of six camera people discreetly around the room. Most of our operators used DSLR cameras, which allowed them to blend in perfectly with the constant stream of tourists taking photos of the historic room. I went over all of the blocking and timing with the actors. They then headed inside to a staging area and got into costume.

Agent Rodgers was the first ghost to enter. He grabbed a book off of a shelf on the way in and started heading for a seat. He was quickly stopped by a security guard, who had no idea what was going on.

Guard: Sir, what are you doing?
Rodgers: Um ... haunting the library.

The guard allowed him to take a seat, and then went over to the information desk to laugh about it with another employee.

The first ghost got some nice reactions from the folks he sat by, but they eventually went back to working when it became clear the ghost was just going to sit and read a book. That is, until ghost number two entered.

He promptly sat down with his laptop and began searching Answers.Com for the question "Could a person come back to life after they die?"

After about five minutes, the final ghost made his entrance. He walked down the aisle and headed over to the dictionary stand.

With three ghosts spread out in the reading room, who you gonna call?

As soon as the Ghostbusters spotted the ghosts, Agent Lathan shouted, "Get 'em!"

All three ghosts leapt up and immediately started running around and making ghost noises.

While the ghost-phase of the mission was pretty low-key, as soon as the chase started the room came alive. The room full of library patrons and tourists all started laughing, smiling, and frantically getting out their cameras and camera phones.

It was cool to see tables full of people taking off their headphones and laughing with each other.

The whole chase lasted less than a minute, as we didn't want to be too disruptive to the people trying to get their work done. The Ghostbusters weren't able to get their hands on the ghosts and ended up following them out of the reading room. After they left, the room broke out in applause.

The Ghostbusters chase wasn't quite over yet. They followed the ghosts down the stairs and out the front door of the building!

The Ghostbusters rounded the corner onto 42nd Street and disappeared out of view in pursuit of the ghosts. My guess is that they were successful, as the Ghostbusters were spotted later in the day in good spirits posing for a photo with a young fan.

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