Strike makes Santa Monica restrict filming

Permit applicants must disclose possibility of union demonstrations

The city of Santa Monica, responding to the prospect of an ongoing strike against the ad industry by union actors, has tightened procedures for obtaining film shooting permits on public property.

The council voted early Wednesday morning, near the end of a meeting that began Tuesday evening, to require permit applicants to disclose if they expect labor demonstrations and disruptions. They will also be required to state the amount of space needed and whether they are filing for multiple permits.

Since the strike began May 1, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have staged repeated pickets at shoots using non-union actors including a volatile Aug. 1 demonstration at a Santa Monica casting office that drew 150 protesters. But the unions have been frustrated by commercial producers attempting to hide their shoots by skirting regulations in a number of municipalities through such techniques as filing for multiple permits or mislabeling the shoots as music videos.

“What we’re trying to do is require full disclosure so we’ll know ahead of time if we need to intervene,” said council member Kevin McKeon, who authored the measure. “Our resolution could be a model for other cities.”

McKeon, a 30-year member of AFTRA, said he decided not to seek a ban on commercials using non-union talent because of potential legal difficulties such a prohibition would face. Such proposals have been considered by the cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and West Hollywood but none has yet been enacted as commercial producers contend that such bans would merely force them to shoot in Canada and overseas.

“A ban on commercials is a shotgun blast but this resolution is more of a rifle shot that goes directly to the heart of the issue,” McKeon said.

Several dozen union supporters attended the meeting in support of the resolution. A rep for the Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers said Santa Monica’s change in regulations will not have a significant impact on how producers shoot commercials in the Los Angeles suburb.

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