Locations go downtown

Downtown L.A. feature production continues to dominate the area in terms of location shooting, even as location managers and local lawmakers try to prevent lensing burnout.

According to statistics obtained by Daily Variety, L.A. City Council District 9, which includes parts of downtown and South Los Angeles, reeled in about 50% more production than any other area.

From July 1, 1996, to June 30, 1997, the district racked up 6,193 motion picture production days. In second place, North Hollywood and Hancock Park rolled in with 4,093 motion pic days.

Rounding out the top five, the Venice and L.A. Airport area pulled in 3,543 days, Westwood checked in with 3,120 days and the downtown and East L.A. district finished with 3,107 days.

“There is no doubt that downtown provides the only filming of its kind,” Michael Walbrecht, Warner Bros.’ director of studio and production affairs, told Daily Variety. “If I need a New York-style apartment among high rises, your choices are limited and you end up downtown. But if I want mansions or residential streets I can go to any one of 50 communities.”

Cody Cluff, prexy of Los Angeles’ film liaison and permit office Entertainment Industry Development Corp., says he predicts more of the same this year, but expects to continue a policy of putting specific conditions on certain permits. Councilmember Rita Walters, for instance, vehemently objects to use of live gunfire or explosions during production in her District 9.

“There is no benefit to companies if they burn out locations,” Cluff said. “I give a certain amount of credit to the production offices, which are in charge of dealing face to face with these communities.”

Overall, Los Angeles motion picture production has jumped more than 50% in the past two years to 44,423 days. But with the increased lensing comes increased complaints.

According to an EIDC document, Walters’ downtown District 9 has one of the lowest resident objection levels at 70 production days per complaint. The most frequent whistle-blowers were in District 11 (Brentwood and West Valley). Residents in District 11, which ranked eighth in total feature lensing, filed a complaint for every 20 production days.

Ranking two and three on the complaint meter, closer to their respective proportions of production, were residents near the beach in Ruth Galanter’s District 6 (one complaint per 29 filming days) and around Westwood in Michael Feuer’s District 5 (one complaint per 30 filming days).

“We get a lot of complaints and urge the EIDC to mediate,” said Niki Tennant, a spokeswoman for Galanter, referring to common gripes such as parking problems, blocked access and loud generators. On the other hand, “We are fortunate that we have a lot of high-profile and visible locations that are difficult to replicate,” Tennant added.

Patti Archuletta, director of the California Film Commission, said some areas need to be protected: “All that glitters is not gold. In those highly impacted areas, we risk a backlash of discontent by residents and the council people themselves.”

But Archuletta gives kudos to L.A.’s film office for effectively playing the middle. “The EIDC is really responding to a lot of political pressure,” Archuletta said. “I don’t want to see Los Angeles caving into political pressure to curb (overall) filming.”

SNOW IN SOUTHERN CAL in October? That’s what happened earlier this month in Big Bear Lake when Walt Disney had to abort a planned shoot of a remake of “The Parent Trap.” The pic, starring Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson, was forced to move the scene at Bluff Lake to balmier climes down the hill in Crestline.

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