Offenders could be fined $200 to $1,000

A California legislator announced Monday that he has introduced a bill making it illegal to deliberately disrupt film production and giving law enforcement officers the power to ticket and fine offenders on the spot.

State Sen. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) said he authored Senate Bill 1490 because producers need legal recourse against those who disrupt filming and harass production crews, often in an attempt to extort money. He said many production companies have complained about disruptions such as loud stereos, shining lights and honking car horns.

The legislation provides for initial fines of up to $200 with subsequent violations fined up to $1,000 per infraction. Schiff, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Runaway Production, said other states have enacted similar laws.

“We cannot afford to let the unscrupulous chase film production from our state because they wish to extort a fee,” Schiff said. “California must not lose its competitive advantage in the entertainment industry.”

Ward Emling, chairman of the Assn. of Film Commissioners Intl. and director of Mississippi’s film office, said disruptions tend to occur in larger cities. “We never have a problem in Mississippi, but there are a lot of places where it does happen,” he added.

Similar bills were introduced to the California Legislature in 1995 by State Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-West Los Angeles) and Assemblyman James Bruelte (R-Rancho Cucamonga) but failed to pass.

Producer Leonard Hill endorsed the Schiff bill, noting that a single individual seeking to disrupt production can have a significant impact. “Production companies, therefore, need recourse to quick and efficient enforcement tactics to deal with those individuals who habitually seek to disrupt orderly production for personal financial gain,” he said.

But Los Angeles-based commercial producer Carl Wyant expressed skepticism about the need for such a law, noting that crews routinely obtain permission from neighborhood residents before starting production. “I think such a law would be difficult to enforce,” he added. “I believe the legislature should focus more on what can be done economically to prevent runaway production.”

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