Mayor’s Office releases permit pact

Redraft of NY proposal hopes to cool tensions

Five months after sparking an uproar with a film permit proposal viewed as onerous in Gotham film circles, the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting has released redrafted regulations governing lensing in the city.

The new rules include exhaustive definitions of the equipment and circumstances for which permits would be required. The effort to spell out filming rules stems from a lawsuit filed in 2005 by Indian filmmaker Rakesh Sharma against the NYPD and Mayor’s Office. Sharma claimed in his suit that NYPD officers broke his camera when they ordered him to stop filming on a Gotham street, and that he was later denied a permit without explanation.

The Mayor’s Office was dismissed from the lawsuit on the condition that it establish rules for lensing in the city. When the Mayor’s Office released the initial proposal in May, the draft required a permit and $1 million in insurance for any production using “vehicles” or “equipment” — two terms that were not defined in the proposal.

After the initial uproar, the Mayor’s Office announced that they would reword the rules in order to provide more specifics and address the concerns raised by the film community. The loudest protests came from Picture New York, an advocacy organization that materialized as the regs made the rounds in the film community. Representatives from Picture New York said that they would have an official position on the proposal on Tuesday , but that after a cursory examination the revised regs “looked pretty good.”

“The MOFTB said that they would do some outreach to the NYPD and publish a sort of filmmaker’s bill of rights that told the police that the city of New York encourages photography, so I’m most interested in that aspect,” said filmmaker Lisa Guido, a Picture New York member. “That seemed like a good idea on their part.”

Guido noted that the Mayor’s Office had been very receptive after the initial uproar.

In a statement issued Monday, Gotham film commissioner Katherine Oliver noted that her office had taken into account the various complaints in its redraft of the rules.

“We strive to make New York City a hassle-free environment for productions and to ease public inconvenience as much as possible,” she said. “We hope that these new rules will be met with the understanding that as a government agency we are required to enact regulations.”

The comment period on the new draft will end Dec. 13, when a public hearing to discuss the regs will be held.