Never Trust a Production Company

http://blogging.la/archives/images/2006/08/bla-commercialshoot-thumb.jpgThat’s the only way I can think to start this post: never trust a production company.

If there’s one thing they’ve got going, it’s that you can count on them to show up early every time.

For some freakazoid reason a commercial company wanted to shoot on our quiet and parking limited street at an architecturally notable house on a Sunday. Starting at 8 AM. Yes, Sundays are verboten unless the residents agree. We didn’t agree, this was the same company that shot another commercial on our street and also woke me up a full thirty minutes before the agreed-upon time and blocked my driveway.

I didn’t want to be woken up on Sunday at 8AM. I get one day a week to sleep in and I really wasn’t interested in money to compensate me for my extra two hours.

Our house was apparently one of the last holdouts so we got the company to agree not to put any of their production trucks in front of our house until 9:30 (including not running the generator or setting up the craft service tables in the carport at the next door neighbor’s).

So what do you think happens at 8:03 this morning? Those backup beeps and some parktard shouting out parking instructions to the trucks about three doors up from us (which amounts to 20 feet from my bedroom window).

I’m up now!

I close the window, which makes for a stuffy sleeping condition as I have no AC. I try to go back to sleep but that lasts about 10 minutes until they start unloading C-stands (they equivalent of banging high pitched gongs). Yeah, I’m outta bed now.

Then they park a toilet truck in front of our house at about 8:45 … 45 minutes earlier than our agreement. The Man askes them to move it. Then the C-stand truck comes back again and not only unloads and assembles them. I’m outta bed now and out on the sidewalk. But when I say that they’re not supposed to park there until after 9:30 they say that’s not what they’re told (well, one fellow went off to talk to the transpo guy or something).

Really all this means is that it’s going to be that much harder in the future for people to agree to have filming in their neighborhood. I will sure as hell not accept these guys here again. Yes, the entertainment (and commericial-making) industry is very important to the local economy. But ignoring agreements that you make with residents to invade their space early on a weekend morning will not engender much support. Here’s a suggestion, if you work on location a lot and you see a resident, why not smile and say “Hi, thanks for letting shoot on your lovely street (or crappy street, if that’s what they’re going for), we’re sorry for the inconvenience.”

Their poor planning and budget which is forcing them to shoot on a Sunday does not constitute a dire situation on my part to be at all sympathetic to them having to jump through the hoops set out by the film permit department. That’s why they have the rules in the first place … I moved into a residential neighborhood.

My whole issue was that they agreed not to park ANYTHING down on our end of the street until 9:30 and they jumped the gun three different times.

End of rant.

Feel free to chime in about the time a production came to your neighborhood or the experiences you’ve had on crew.

17 Replies to “Never Trust a Production Company”

  1. I’m often quick to rush to the defense of production crews around town – as you point out, they’re an important part of our economy.
    But the cockwads who selfishly break the rules by having their crews show up early and break the agreements are doing a disservice to the filmmaking community as a whole.
    Its too bad a simple phone call to the cops can’t shut down the entire shoot in such cases of clear disregard for contracts, or personally fine and sanction the location and/or production manager.

  2. If you’re that close to the shoot you’re also in a unique position to interfere with them on a profound level. Might I suggest aiming every speaker in your house in their direction, putting Motorhead on an endless loop, and leaving for a nice day out?

    Or how about letting neighborhood teens practice with your drumkit?

    I too recognize the concept that film shoot=good economy, but they are GUESTS in RESIDENTIAL neighborhoods and should behave as such. We’ve all had this experience enough times to know that rarely happens.

    Me, I demand cash. And you know what? They always pay. I know you said money wouldn’t make you feel better, but that’s likely because you aren’t asking enough.

  3. Cybele,

    I’m really sorry to hear about your troubles. For what it’s worth to you or others who may read this in the future, the former EIDC has a new

    http://www.filmLAinc.com

    Despite the importance of that and other industries, you do have well-defined rights as a Los Angeles resident.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact your Community Police Station and especially the Neighborhood Prosecutor, as well as your local elected leaders for guidance. You can find personalized links to each of the aforementioned at:

    http://www.lacity.org/neighborhood.htm

    Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

    Brian Humphrey
    Firefighter/Specialist
    Public Service Officer
    Los Angeles Fire Department

  4. In my experience, it’s the little guys on the crew who tend to cause the most problems. From what I can tell the management of a shoot works like a game of telephone – sure the location guys negotiated everything, paid you, etc.. but the greens guy who’s working a one day gig? He could give a shit for your priorities, and he probably dosen’t even know what they are. He only cares what his employer thinks, and he knows you’re not the one in charge.

    If you’ve got a real issue, don’t try to resolve it through the EIDC, just call the police. The thing crews are most afraid of is delays, and uniformed LAPD officers are the one thing that can really cause one. No one wants one, and no one wants to be the PA who’s inability to deal with the issues of the location led to the delay.

  5. I think Marshall is right in many occasions, but I still blame the location managers and production managers who should be on site to keep those rogue workers from making them look bad.

    Most location managers, in my experience, are hard asses who want the crew to follow all the rules, since they’re the one’s who need to not only deal with the shit, but but are the ones who’s reputation can be ruined, making it difficult to secure locations further on.

    Regardless, I encourage Cybele to list the name of the production manager and location manager here at blogging.la as a warning to others – their names should be on the filming notification forms, and a matter of public record.

  6. I didn’t mean to absolve location & production managers from blame. Some of them are great, I look forward to working with them year after year, some I’d rather never see again. The worst shoots are onese with bad location scouts – if the little guys get out of hand, there is no one at the top you can rely on to get them to conform to whatever agreement they are in violation of.

  7. I was pretty peeved this morning but I also admit that I was very hungry too, which makes me grumpy.

    I really don’t begrudge the individual guys who kept pulling up and making noise because I believe that they didn’t know. They’re just easy to yell at because they’re present. It would have been so simple for the location manager or transpo guy to just place cones down in those parking spots with a little sign that says “no parking until 9:30” … no need to talk to every guy on the crew about it.

    Ruth – as much as I’d wanna get back at them, I do have to live with the rest of the folks on the street even after they leave! (Also, I checked, it’s an MOS shoot!) I think the easiest way to make trouble would have been to get a few crates of pigeons and release them right there and maybe scatter some birdseed (okay, that’s all I could come up with!).

    Marshall – I didn’t think that anything on this particular occasion rose to the level of needing the police come and arbitrate. If anything I would have called parking control to come and get those cars off the wrong side of the street that made it pretty much impossible to use half the block and obstructed the intersection. But I have serious parking issues.

    David – unfortunately I don’t know the name of the production company. I didn’t negotiate this one … I let my husband take care of it. I do know that the location manager was different from the one on the last shoot. Suffice to say that company is not welcome here again unless I go stay in a hotel or something.

    I am happy to report that they’re wrapping for the day … of course they were blocking my driveway AGAIN when I came back from the market (as they were when I left for the market) … but all items secured at the market were courtesy of them and the fee they paid us for the inconvenience.

  8. Perhaps next time, when you know they are coming your way, it would be prudent to park your care somewhere that would not allow them to start set up / shooting until you move your car…at 9:29 AM?

  9. people who live in “residential neighborhoods” with “quiet and parking-limited streets” always seem so miserable!

  10. David (not Markland) – I think they can have you towed … that’d be no fun!

    Anon – yes, I can tell you’ve looked at all of my posts and seen what a curmudgeon I am and how consistently I whine about such things.

  11. I’ve been on both sides of this issue. Often the crew is embarassed by the production company’s mendacity. They plan to break all agreements as soon as there made. “Just pay ’em off. if they’re too stupid to ask for money? Lie some more.”
    My neighborhood peeve is night shooting with gennies and Condors rattling away and choking us with diesel fumes. The permit says they have to be tail lights by midnight, but they ALWAYS keep shooting. I find the spesker method handy, but a walkie talkie on their freq is really great. Remember their retired LAPD guys have no more authority than the local winehead. If they come to your door about interfering, shine ’em.
    Most effective action? I just walk onto the set in front of rolling cameras and ask when they’re leaving.

    Hudson

  12. There was always plenty of location shooting going on in my ‘hood and as annoying as it sometimes was, in the long run, I’d much rather see the industry remain in LA for our communal economic good. I’d much rather lose sleep and say “hey I work/sleep/play/eat/hang-out” on that street in that commercial or film than “gee, they can do a lot with the Vancouver skyline these days, can’t they.”

  13. Cybele –
    You can find out the name of the production company and complain to the EIDC. That is what I did when Quincenera started filming all up and down our block , even on my and my neighbors porches, without permits. The way I found out what movie it even was was by calling the EIDC. They found out the movie and production manager name for me, and the production manager had to call me back to respond to the complaint. Not that they cared; but I think maybe those complaints are logged somewhere by the EIDC. It’s worth a try.

  14. CD: I agree we do need to endure some of the hardships that the occasional film shoot cause us, but the crews and production companies are not doing any of us a disservice when they break agreements with the residents.

  15. CD – There’s a big difference between the “inconvenience” of film shoots and when a filming company breaks its contractual obligations. I don’t do business with people who violate their contracts in my office – why should I put up with that behavior from some transient film company?

    Ollie – In my experience calling the EIDC is worthless – I’ve never seen and follow through or ability to return calls on their part. The only people I’ve ever gotten on the phone there seemed to be completely out of it or incompetent.

  16. As one who has run a production company, and for years advised many others, I can sympathize. It’s difficult to strike the right balance between the production business and the various communities of hard working people in Los Angeles.

    However, the fact that production is going on at all in Los Angeles is a great thing, given failure of Congress to pass incentives to help stop Runaway Production.

    While I generally support business conducted by the major film and television studios, and the anti-piracy efforts of the Motion Picture Association of America, there has to be a better compromise at the federal level for American workers in the entertainment industry. I hope to be able to immediately address this issue next year.

  17. I’ve worked as a location manager and I live in an extremely popular neighborhood for filming in downtown Los Angeles. When a music video shot on 5th Street until 4am and I had to be back on my set at 6am, I went downstairs with my loftmate (he was bad cop, I was good cop) and immediately asked anyone with a walkie for the location manager and a copy of the film permit. While loftmate got into an insane shouting match and chest-bumping thing with a grip, I calmly told the location manager I was going to call filmLA and shut them down within twenty minutes because of all the violations to their permit. While the off-duty LAPD officer kept my loftmate and the grip from busting each other’s heads, I held out my hand. The location manager counted out a succession of Benjamins. I asked my loftmate to please go upstairs and stop fighting with the crew. As soon as he did, the location manager gave me two more. My loftmate? He went upstairs, faxed a complaint to the EIDC. By the time I got back upstairs, their production was shut down.

    You can bet your ass not one of my crews ever violated permits while I was working locations.

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