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. Enjoy the video first and then go behind-the-scenes with the photos and report below.

Agents Hines, Purnell, Lathan, and Scordelis
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.

Panoramic photo by David Iliff
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.

Agent Lathan and his binocular glasses

Agent Purnell puts on his fake mustache

Showing the ghosts a map of the reading room
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.

Rodgers takes his seat. Notice the girl in pink’s reaction (behind the girl in white)
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.

Agent Walker enters as the second ghost
(note the same guard reacting in the background)

Ghost working in the middle of the crowd

Closeup of the ghost’s computer screen
After about five minutes, the final ghost made his entrance. He walked down the aisle and headed over to the dictionary stand.

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

Ghostbusters surveying the room

Tourists and library patrons take notice (and photos!) of the Ghostbusters

The first ghost reads, unaware of the danger he’s in
As soon as the Ghostbusters spotted the ghosts, Agent Lathan shouted, “Get ’em!”

The ghost leaps to his feet
All three ghosts leapt up and immediately started running around and making ghost noises.

Agent Hines finds the computer-using ghost
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.

Agent Scordelis follows a ghost out the door
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 chase continues down Fifth Avenue
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.

Mission Accomplished.


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