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The Picture From Other Side of Movie Camera

May 25, 1990

Re "Mad About the Movies" (May 18): I work as a sound technician. In order for my co-workers and I to get our jobs done, we often need to shoot at practical locations, which can engender the wrath of residents, as mentioned in the article.

Unfortunately, no one has come up with a suitable alternative. Sound stages can only provide so much illusion (and at substantial cost), and some budgets and scripted locations--particularly exteriors--demand the real thing.

Whenever residents start complaining about a crew disturbing their peace, I have a vision of them storming back into their homes and sitting back down in front of their TVs to resume watching (and listening to) a favorite program--which very likely was at least partially shot on location in a neighborhood much like their own.

Many people apparently resent the rich and spoiled Hollywood elite so over-publicized in the media. If people don't like the idea of actors, directors, producers, and writers (in order of so-called "importance") receiving such absurdly high incomes for their efforts, people shouldn't go to their movies, watch their programs and buy the publications covering them.

If people want "better" movies and TV with more reasonable fees paid to the participants, why aren't they going to small and/or "art" films in droves or watching public television in record numbers? I agree that the above-the-line ("creative") members of the industry are absurdly overcompensated, but as long as we live in a democratic free-enterprise system, we are all to blame for the fruits and follies that result.

Contrary to popular misconception, most of the toilers in Tinseltown are not rich. The majority of productions use non-union crews who work a minimum of 60 hours per week for wages that rival those of plumbers. The work is far from glamorous, often tedious, sometimes hazardous, and subject to the discomforts and problems of heat, cold, rain, dirt and various unhealthy chemicals (paint, smoke, sprays) used in producing the illusions the public willingly pays for.

Don't get me wrong. I'm pleased to be making a living of some kind in my chosen field, and I appreciate the benefits and unique experiences that come with the job.

An unnamed City Hall staff member, whose place of employment was being used for filming, was quoted in the article as resenting "that sense of importance that dominates the movie industry--that a half-hour episode of 'Hooper' could be more important than anything I could possibly do (at work)." No, what we do is not necessarily more important than civic duties (although that is debatable, considering the amount of waste and idiocy rampant in politics, rivaling that of Hollywood).

What is important is that we have a schedule to keep, a budget to adhere to, and certain requirements that must be met in order to accomplish these things, including the cooperation of others when we are shooting.

Bear in mind that the actual shooting (rolling the film and audio tape) takes up a mere fraction of a crew's working day; the rest of the day (or night) is spent preparing and rehearsing. For most of that period, the public is free to make noise and walk by or around the set.

Here's my perspective: The nature of the industry dictates that any place is a potential location for filmmakers. Los Angeles is the heart of the industry. Therefore, the city is the industry's workplace, our place of employment. And we have a right to work.

"Not in my back yard?" Fine--if your back yard is somewhere else. Otherwise, behave yourself or go watch television; we're working.

JOHN PAUL HAYS, Los Angeles

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