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Film Permits: the Back Story

September 14, 2002

Re "Film Agency Donations Questioned," Sept. 10: After experiencing 10 consecutive nights of filming along Monte Vista in Highland Park, it is clear to me and my neighbors that the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. cannot be trusted with the responsibility of issuing film permits.

In a working-class neighborhood where young families need to sleep at night, motorcycle chases and accidents were filmed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The noise and the inability to drive and park in our neighborhood were untenable. My family was never surveyed, and we were given one day's notice of filming.

The private use of the public domain should not be taken lightly. Film permits should be issued by a public agency that is accountable, respectful and responsible. Apparently the EIDC does not fit these criteria.

Karra Bikson Moga

Los Angeles

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As a film professional and someone familiar with the machinations of the EIDC, I find it laughable that recipients of huge political contributions, which amount to a gift of public funds, feign ignorance. These are the political cognoscenti, sophisticated elected officials who are "shocked, shocked to find gambling at Rick's."

I wrote to Mayor James Hahn regarding the inappropriate expansion of the EIDC into the film location business. The EIDC has taken over numerous publicly owned facilities (usually in mothballs) and "cleaned them up." Now a facility that previously rented for $300 per day costs nearly $5,000 per day. (Which is one strange way to keep filmmakers in L.A.) There is a clear conflict of interest for an entity that facilitates permits to be in the location business.

As for the ongoing "catered affair" at the expense of taxpayers, these political contributions are the tip of the iceberg in what has been a big mistake. The EIDC was formed in the "business can do better than government" days, when elaborate schemes like Enron and WorldCom were in their formation, aided and abetted by politicians who solicited huge contributions and provided the "hands-off" approach. Only the hands-off approach, in this case, didn't serve the public or promote filming. Cody Cluff, Mike Bobenko, et al, have run the film office as a personal fiefdom and funneled contributions to politicians and political causes to ensure their survival.

The days of corporate welfare, patronage and plausible deniability should be over, and I can think of no better place to start than with the EIDC. As we say in the business, "That's a wrap!"

Chris Fuentes

Cerritos

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Those of us who are unfortunate enough to live adjacent to favored film industry "shoot houses" have long been suspicious of the folks at the EIDC. I have found it very odd that film production companies with seemingly unlimited budgets for lavishly catered crew lunches pay only a few hundred dollars to the city for permits to destroy a neighborhood. And your revealing Sept. 7 article suggests that much of that meager sum may not be making it to the city coffers.

I now have an idea why the EIDC president, Cluff, was always "traveling outside the country" when I called to complain to him about a violation in my neighborhood and why L.A. City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski never followed through on her staff's promise to intervene on behalf of neighbors who are sick of constant filming, with fumes from gas-powered generators, dangerous traffic conditions and surly location managers who feel they own the street.

Jerry Braude

Los Angeles

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Movie companies frequently shoot movies in San Pedro and the Port of Los Angeles. Often I am irritated when a restaurant I want to go to or a street I want to use is closed. However, I always thought that the movie companies were paying the city for the privilege of closing the street.

I was surprised to find that part of this money goes to a quasi-public agency--whatever that is. Instead of money going to the general fund, it is spent on cigars that I cannot buy, to pay 100% tips at exclusive restaurants that I cannot afford and to fund overseas junkets that I cannot go on. Our elected leaders, who sit on the board of this agency, are accepting political contributions from it.

Worst of all, when county auditors tried to audit the books of this quasi-public agency, they had to get a search warrant. The people running this agency have demonstrated bad judgment in the expenditure of movie company fees and are grossly arrogant when it requires a search warrant to retrieve financial records in need of an audit. The city and county leadership should pull out of the EIDC and issue all future permits. By doing this we can stop the political contributions, place movie fees in the general fund, have regular audits and hold our elected representatives responsible.

Larry Burks

San Pedro

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Any evidence of ongoing illegal activity provides the city of L.A. and the county with a real opportunity to cancel the contracts with the EIDC. Past demonstrated failures of the EIDC to control runaway production and prevent "neighborhood burnout" have not been enough to overcome the conflicts of interest and political clout in the relationship between the film industry and our elected and appointed representatives. Anyone with visions of a better L.A. recognizes the need to go beyond the limits of being a company town.

It is a change of attitude for The Times to begin to recognize the corruption inherent in the relationship between any government and a self-permitting and self-regulating industry. The district attorney's office is to be congratulated. It is time to develop a better, public system to regulate an industry that must not consider itself beyond the rule of law.

Thomas A. Guiton

Los Angeles

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