Last Wednesday the AMC YouTube channel released a prank video that recently peaked the interested of the MTA and NYPD. The 1:44 minute video shows actors dressed up as zombies scaring people in Union Square from underneath a street grate.
It’s a great video, but I’m calling fake and here’s why:
- Having spent weeks getting permits from New York City for various projects, from my experience there’s no way any state or park department would issue a permit to open up a grate like this for any purpose.
- Nobody would put actors in danger by asking them to stick their arms out risking broken - or severed - fingers and hands.
- It is stupid to risk tripping the public and the police presence in Union Square - specifically on the east side where this takes place - would never allow this.
- Anytime we see hands coming out of the grate, it’s visual effects.
- Insert shots from above are all shot on a soundstage on a huge Queens somewhere.
- There are only shots of the setup that are on-location, then we cut to inside the tent.
- From there on, there’s no evidence we’re in Union Square and all the shots of actors getting into position could be filmed anywhere.
- Once the prank starts around the one minute mark, the cuts are always the same: wide shot of hands coming out and pedestrian reaction, then a closeup of actors through the grate. Finally, we see some inserts of the pedestrian reacting with nothing else in frame.
- Most likely all the “pedestrians” are actually actors reacting to nothing when this was filmed in Union Square. But perhaps the AMC team took some cues from David Blane-type magic specials and used an old editing trick. The producers could have placed a speaker or light under the grate - anything that would scare a passerby. Then, we have an authentic reaction with which the fake portions can be combined.
The documentary style of both of these pieces - shallow DSLR-style depth of field - reminds watchers this is all captured in real-time cinéma vérité.
If this is real, the producers of the project deserve an award for getting this cleared with the city. But also need to never do anything this unsafe again.