Darren Star's departed Fox series The Street attempted to be a more male-oriented Sex and the City, focused more on the workplace than the executive producer's HBO hit. "The Street is, of course, Wall Street," says production designer Stephen Hendricksen, who visited this turf once before - he also designed Oliver Stone's 1987 film Wall Street. What changes have 13 years wrought on the New York Financial District trading floor? "Well, the computer technology is overwhelming now," says the designer. "The signature look of our show was flat-screen monitors; that's a technology that didn't exist back then. We wanted this to be as cutting-edge and contemporary-looking as possible."
Which meant, ironically, going not to a New York firm for inspiration and a pilot episode location, but across the river, to Jersey City. "We could not find a place on the real Wall Street that had the look, and was willing to let us come in to shoot," Hendricksen says. "It's very difficult to shoot in any practical location, but to work in a financial company that turns over millions upon millions of dollars per hour - well, they aren't interested in anything slowing them down. And a lot of the established trading floors are old and not interesting-looking. The firm we shot in last March was brand new, and had hundreds of flat-screen monitors."
The Street production went to a practical location for the pilot for a common reason: with no guarantee of a network pickup, producers are loath to spend a lot of money on a set. Once Fox optioned the series, the challenge became adapting the expansive Jersey City trading floor to a soundstage. "We looked at everything available in New York, including warehouses and armories," says the designer. Finally, two stages at Chelsea Piers, home to Law & Order, were commandeered. "We joined the stages together, and filled them up to make one elaborate set. We could not duplicate [the original] in terms of square footage, because it was massive. But we took the feel of it, so there was a real attempt at continuity between what you see in the pilot and in the rest of the episodes."
The Chelsea Piers version of the series' Balmont Stevens, Inc. firm had about 70 traders on the set, as against the 250 traders at the Jersey City model. "We built to the walls of the studio, so we couldn't have made it any bigger," says Hendricksen. The set was crammed with rows of trader desks and monitors, with raised levels on two sides, and, as the designer puts it, "glass, glass everywhere - walls, desktops, sconces," and, of course, screens. Only 14 of the monitors - each valued at $14,000, all of them donated - were real, however. The rest were art department simulacra. Along one wall, windows faced lower Manhattan backings, courtesy of Rosco. "They're printed on vinyl from photography that's scanned and digitized," the designer says. "It's basically bits and pieces of buildings digitally slammed together."
Though The Street has been cancelled, while it was going, Hendricksen was left breathless by its serial nature. The designer has worked on numerous features, commercial and television films, including an Emmy-nominated gig on the 1999 version of Annie, but this was his first series. "You get one episode up and you're already scouting and prepping the next one," he says. "In a way it's like a feature, because week after week after week you keep going." Until, abruptly, you don't.