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March 29, 2020

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2015 San Pedro Prep Softball Preview -

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Art Preview: ‘Non-Native’ by Ingrid Dietrich -

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San Pedro Prep Baseball 2015 Preview -

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Recapping The Final Gaffey Street Community Workshop -

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Tiffany Torres Bears Down For Success At POLA High -

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San Pedro Fish Market Launches Scholarship Contest -

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San Pedro’s Rita Fiorenza Is A Basketball Revelation -

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‘No Lane Reductions’ As Gaffey Street Redevelopment Plans Move Forward -

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San Pedro Prep Sports 2014 Fall Review -

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

LAPD Harbor Division and Philie B’s Pizza To Host Charity Events This Weekend -

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

San Pedro Holiday Parade Returns Sunday with a Twist -

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Winter Wonderland Comes To The Waterfront -

Monday, December 1, 2014

One-Way Streets May Come to Downtown San Pedro -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

San Pedro’s Two Newest Volleyball Skyscrapers: Allison Kittell & Tracy Folchi -

Monday, November 10, 2014

San Pedro and POLA Prep Girls Cross-Country Preview: Running For More Glory -

Thursday, November 6, 2014

International Craft Beer Festival Comes to Crafted This Weekend -

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Second Workshop for Urban Greening Project Receives Warm Reception from Community -

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Construction of Mixed-Use Apartment Complex on Gaffey Could Begin Next Spring -

Thursday, September 25, 2014

UPDATE: Blaze Inside Port of L.A. in Wilmington Nearly Contained; Air Quality Deemed ‘Safe’ -

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

San Pedro High Football Off To Another Strong Start -

Monday, September 22, 2014

Task Force Meets to Address Downtown San Pedro Filming Issues

Films like 'Anchorman' have used downtown San Pedro as their backdrop. The famous "Milk was a bad choice" scene (pictured) was filmed on Sixth Street. (photo: Paramount)

San Pedro has long been known for its abundance of filming locations, especially the old, shop-lined streets of downtown. With its adaptable, Anywhere, USA, look and feel, downtown San Pedro has been a hot spot for location scouts. It isn’t uncommon to drive by trailers and camera crews on Sixth and Seventh Streets, nor is recognizing the Warner Grand Theatre in commercials. But according to location managers, that might be starting to change.

Gone are the days of big budget movies filming on Sixth Street every other week in the ‘90s. Filming downtown has declined over the years, but a host of recurring issues has apparently made it a headache today.

Things reached a boiling point in August, when CBS’s Criminal Minds filmed on Sixth Street one evening. According to insiders, a business owner across the street who was paid by the production company invited friends over to watch, and they started causing mischief in the background, disrupting the shoot.

“Later, I was working on the show and suggested a location in San Pedro and the location manager said, ‘I know you live there, but we’ll never go there again,’ ” said Kris Bunting, a location manager whose own neighborhood is often a filming backdrop. “I wasn’t there myself, but for a show of the magnitude of Criminal Minds to pull out, it must’ve been bad.”

Bunting himself hasn’t filmed on Sixth Street (he has filmed on Seventh), but he’s a go-to for other location managers filming in San Pedro, which sometimes means hearing their grievances.

The Criminal Minds incident started talks that led to the formation of a special task force to address issues filming in downtown San Pedro. It met for the first time last week.

“If I’m managing a $500,000 movie and need a downtown, I won’t even bother scouting downtown San Pedro because I won’t have enough money for all of the handouts. I’ll go to Old Torrance where I won’t get hijacked by extortionists.”

“I think the meeting went really well,” said Linda Alexander, film liaison for the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce.

Also present at the meeting were Bunting, PBID executive director Stephen Robbins, Erika Velazquez of the Chamber, Grand Vision Foundation executive director Liz Schindler Johnson, Nicole Wells of Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office, and Donna Washington, vice president of permit operations at FilmLA, which handles filming permits for the city.

“We discussed ways to improve communications between production companies and businesses, like giving more advanced notice,” Alexander said. The group also talked about putting together a list of businesses that are more filming friendly.

“I appreciate that the task force is going to be broader and more inclusive than in the past, and I think it can only bode well,” said Philip Sokoloski of FilmLA.

buscaino_criminalminds_eastwood

Joe Mantegna (left) with Councilman Joe Buscaino filming outside the Warner Grand Theatre; Clint Eastwood (right) with members of Buscaino’s staff the day Eastwood was filming ‘Jersey Boys’ in San Pedro City Hall. (photo: Office of Councilman Joe Buscaino)

One of the biggest complaints among location managers about filming in downtown San Pedro is business owners allegedly trying to cash in on productions that don’t affect them, or asking for exorbitant amounts of money when they are affected.

The way it works is when a production blocks off the street or has a business temporarily close up shop, the location manager negotiates a deal with the owner and pays an individually set amount of compensation money. Problem is, when word gets out that something is being filmed, calls start coming in from businesses way down the street or even blocks away wanting payouts.

“If I’m managing a $500,000 movie and need a downtown, I won’t even bother scouting downtown San Pedro because I won’t have enough money for all of the handouts. I’ll go to Old Torrance where I won’t get hijacked by extortionists,” Bunting said. “With that said, not every location manager has the same style about ethics and I’m sure not every businesses owner has the same style of extortion. There does need to be a happy medium.”

There have also been cases of production companies purposefully shooting on a day when a business is closed and arriving to find that it just so happens to suddenly be open, creating an unplanned expense.

“It’s almost like, ‘We’ll see if anybody says anything.’ Film companies can cry all they want, but they push the envelope all the time.”

“There’s nothing to stop them from doing that, it’s their business, they can open when they want to,” said Ed Duffy, vice president of Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers. Duffy himself was a longtime location manager in downtown San Pedro and said these issues go back 20 years.

“The bad thing is that it isn’t just the production companies, but directors who have had bad experiences don’t want to work there again,” he said, adding that downtown San Pedro is hardly the only part of Los Angeles where this is a recurring issue.

“I agree that there are some people that ask for a ton of money,” said Michael Koth, owner of Off the Vine wine shop on Sixth Street. “We’re reasonable. We ask for what we feel we’re going to lose, and if they’re taking all the parking for an entire day, we’re looking at losing a lot of money.”

Koth said he runs into consistent problems with production companies, like setting up cones against the curb hours ahead of a shoot or overstaying permits.

“It’s almost like, ‘We’ll see if anybody says anything.’ Film companies can cry all they want, but they push the envelope all the time.”

Since most production companies bring in their own caterers, he said, it’s not like they patronize local restaurants.

“Our thought on the task force is it’s fine, but they have no legal authority to create any policy, and that’s the problem. If some film company comes up to us with a piece of paper that says only $300, I’m going to be a little upset,” Koth said. “Who are you are you to tell me what I’m going to make on that day, or what I’m worth?”

Mishi Schuller has seen a number of productions since he and his wife opened their strudel shop on Seventh Street in 2008. He said for the most part, their experiences have been positive. Earlier this year, however, when word got out that Twilight star Kristen Stewart was in town for a shoot on Seventh Street, paparazzi swarmed to the scene and took up all the street parking, slowing business (except for Stewart, who stopped in for strudel). He asked for some compensation.

“They were defensive and said it was a very low budget production and they didn’t invite the paparazzi, so they had no control over that,” Schuller said. “But then there are some that are very generous. There are nice ones and bad ones, like anything else. Otherwise, I think filming is great for San Pedro to have exposure.”

Downtown San Pedro is considered a special conditions area by FilmLA, which means a film monitor is required at every shoot. So in addition to the cost of a filming permit and any compensation for businesses, production companies have to pay for a FilmLA monitor. There’s also a requested donation to the Chamber of Commerce.

“Why do I have to pay the Chamber on top of a monitor and permit fees?” Bunting said. “I’ll go to Long Beach or Old Torrance where there’s no hassle and I only have to deal with one person.”

Jeff Garrett is a location manager on shows like the short-lived Fox television drama, Lie to Me. He’s worked on a few productions in downtown San Pedro in the past few years.

“The last time wasn’t too bad, we were very small, so we weren’t too impactful to the neighborhood. The time before, I shot on a movie called Faster and we were much bigger. We didn’t shoot on Sixth Street, we shot on Pacific Avenue, but I still got a rash of calls from people on Sixth wanting money,” he said. “Trust me, it was a pain in the ass and it was a long time before I wanted to go back there and film again.”

He also questioned the Chamber donation.

“I think having to pay the Chamber of Commerce is ridiculous. It makes no sense to me whatsoever,” he said. “The money of big productions just isn’t there anymore, so it really detracts form anyone filming there, which is too bad because it has a great look. People need that anywhere-in-America look.”

But Alexander said the donation isn’t a requirement, and that it hasn’t been for years. In fact, she said the two most recent commercial shoots did not make donations.

“It’s not mandatory. It’s a modest donation, and it’s very common.”

Bunting said ultimately, filming needs to be mutually beneficial for both production companies and the community, and he’s excited for the task force.

“I’m in a union and this is a union town,” he said. “We need to get to a happy medium. With a mayor that is extremely pro-filming, and the City Council Office and PBID being open to ideas, I think the task force is going to be fantastic.”

Comments
2 Responses to “Task Force Meets to Address Downtown San Pedro Filming Issues”
  1. Liz Stein Mikkelsen says:

    Maybe whatever production company that’s filming off of Point Fermin right now…setting off explosions for the last several hours would like to explain how important they are to my terrified dog that is hiding under my bed.

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