Amendment restricts smaller productions

After widespread outrage over proposed rules for film permits that would make low-budget productions prohibitively expensive, the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting is headed back to the drawing board.

The broadly worded amendment to Gotham’s existing lensing rules would have required formal permits and liability insurance of $1 million for any production using “vehicles or equipment” on city property, and for any two or more people filming for more than 30 minutes. For a group containing five people and a tripod, the allowed time dropped to 10 minutes including setup and breakdown.

Student productions were exempt from the insurance requirement.

In a news release issued Friday, commissioner Katherine Oliver said, “We appreciate the feedback and collaboration of the production community in the city and look forward to revising our proposal.”

Picture New York, an ad hoc group of filmmakers and photographers formed after the proposed rules were announced in late May, expressed satisfaction with the decision.

“I think we succeeded in publicizing this issue so that the Mayor’s Office of Film was compelled to respond,” said Lisa Guido, a video producer who works with Picture New York. “We’re well aware that there’s another set of regulations coming down the pipe in the next couple of weeks. It’s exactly what we called for, though.”

Picture New York’s aggressive publicity campaign attracted 26,000 petition signatures, as well as support from Alfonso Cuaron, Michael Stipe, Albert Maysles and Patti Smith.

The new regs are a result of the terms of a recent court settlement reached with Rakesh Sharma, an Indian filmmaker who had been denied a shooting permit without explanation. The settlement dismissed Oliver and her office from the lawsuit provided the Mayor’s Office codified and published “rules relating to the manner in which permits are issued by the MOFTB.”

That lawsuit was prosecuted by the New York Civil Liberties Union — the same org now pressuring the Mayor’s Office to throw out large parts of the amendment it had been ordered to write.

Sources at the Mayor’s Office said that the amendment was less of a draconian mandate than a draft over which debate was encouraged, pointing out that Friday, the date of the release, marked the end of the comment period on the regs. That period had been extended from June 27 to allow for further discussion.

The office said that the redrafting of the rules “will focus on meaningfully addressing concerns” that parts of the document “affected individuals who were not engaged in the type of activities traditionally regulated by the MOFTB.”

Picture New York has expressed a desire to collaborate with Oliver and her office during the rulemaking process. “We’d like somebody to consult us when there’s something that’s going to affect what we do every day,” noted Guido.

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