Where Film Locations Abound

Posted on May 31, 2016

Contributed by Ismael Jamie Cruz. He is currently in the NYC Data Science Academy 12 week full time Data Science Bootcamp program taking place between April 11th to July 1st, 2016. This post is based on his third class project - Web Scraping (due on the 6th week of the program)

New York's streets, shops, cafes, and architecture have provided the backdrop for numerous films. About 17,241 movie scenes were filmed between 2011 and 2013 based on film permit data from the New York Mayor's Office of Film. Some of my favourite have taken place in this city and I was always curious where exactly certain scenes were shot.

On the Set of New York (OTSONY) is one such website that contains more than a thousand movies and film locations in New York. It is owned and operated by Englishman Mark Rogers and contains one of the most extensive lists of film locations in the Big Apple. In addition, Rogers's methodology of gathering the locations is a labor of love. Without any access to filming street permits, Rogers identities locations manually through a long and drawn out process of pinpointing each address. Hence, it should be noted that this list is by no means exhaustive.

Web Scraping

I wanted to create a map that contained film locations using data from OTSONY. I proceeded by web scraping the site using Scrapy, a free and open source web crawling framework written in Python. The web scraping gathered two main things: movie titles and film locations.

Movie list from OTSONY:


Sample film location for The Avengers movie:



After acquiring the data, I used the Python library Geocoder to generate latitude and longitude data for each film location. Due to usage limits however, I was only able to generate geocodes for the first 407 films in the OTSONY list.

I then used Tableau Public to create a dashboard plotting the locations of the first 407 films. The dashboard can be found here.

Some features of the dashboard:

  1. Highlighting a point on the map shows the name of the movie and film location address
  2. Clicking on one of the bar graphs filters points by decade
  3. Changing the slider filters points by year
  4. Inputting a zip code in the search feature of the map zooms in to a certain area

*Note: some points are incorrectly plotted as seen by those located in other U.S. states but whose address is in New York

Future analysis

  • complete geocoding for all locations
  • plot all film locations
  • what were the most popular locations/areas to film in?
NYC Film Locations

About Author

Ismael Jaime Cruz

Ismael’s roots are in finance and statistics. He has six years of experience in such areas as financial analysis, trading and portfolio management. He was part of the team that launched the very first exchange-traded-fund in the Philippines....
View all posts by Ismael Jaime Cruz >

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