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What Makes a Film Location Unfriendly?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, November 04, 2009, at 03:29PM
bomb squad entering bank jim Winstead [Flickr]

A 2005 shoot at the Farmer's and Merchants Bank, one of the ten locations identified in the "hardest to film" list.

Two days after the City released a report listing Los Angeles' ten "hardest to film" locations -- six of which are located Downtown -- it is clear that the document has raised more questions than answers.

One thing that did become obvious at a Tuesday afternoon meeting of the Jobs and Business committee is that much of the issue revolves around money.

Representatives for several of the properties on the list appeared before the committee to express their surprise and confusion at being included.

Beverly Kenworthy, Public Policy Manager for the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, noted that one of the organization's priorities is keeping filming in Los Angeles and that its headquarters -- which has hosted multiple shoots in 2009 -- showed up on the top ten list. "We sort of question the whole methodology of this," said Kenworthy.

The Chamber is one of five properties on the list represented by Hollywood Locations. Peter Brosnan, a Senior V.P. at the company, told the committee that his company was formed in the 1980s because of the difficulty filming Downtown. The company also helped develop L.A. Center Studios, a filming and office facility located just west of the 110 freeway.

"We'd like to think that we were at least partially responsible for making the city and the Downtown area much more film friendly," said Brosnan.

So why then did so many of the company's locations end up on the list?

Brosnan thinks it comes down to the location fees charged. He said that he's willing to look at any specific complaints, but that his business is to look out for his clients.

"When I am employed by a property owner, I have the fiduciary obligation to negotiate on their behalf," he told the committee. "I can't come in and say 'Will you take as little as possible?'"

"'Expensive' does not automatically mean a property is 'difficult,'" Brosnan told blogdowntown via email after the meeting. "I think those words conjure up two very different perceptions and a distinction needs to be made in that area before a bulk list like this is put out to the public."

To location managers, those two words may be more synonymous. "The cost of filming Downtown for a lot of these companies has risen from $30,000 a day to $80,000 a day," said Ed Duffy of Teamsters Local 399. "Different shows have left town because they can't shoot Downtown because it's too expensive."

The committee asked FilmL.A. to produce a report on the fees charged by various locations, but it is unclear how feasible such a document really is. Buildings often guard the specifics of their contracts with shoots, and neither they nor the film industry is too eager to see those numbers published.

During a discussion of the report, Duffy jumped up to caution Councilmembers Richard Alarcon and Bernard Parks that a list of rates might have the opposite effect of what is intended. "Some of the buildings are quite expensive," he said. "If other buildings decide to charge the same amount ... we have to be a little careful, that's all."

FilmL.A. was also asked to report quarterly on the top ten list and efforts being made to make the facilities easier for filming. "We're going to need some more direction on that one," said Todd Lindgren, V.P. of Communications for the non-profit, which coordinates permitting for the City.

While FilmL.A. works closely with City departments on filming issues, there is little it can do when it comes to private property. "We're not in a position to compel a private property owner to reduce his rates," said Lindgren.

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