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On Location

Groups back effort to standardize on-location filming policies

July 13, 2012|By Thomas Suh Lauder
  • A film crew prepares for a December shoot at Los Angeles City Hall for "Gangster Squad," a feature film starring Sean Penn.
A film crew prepares for a December shoot at Los Angeles City Hall for "Gangster… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)

The Southern California Assn. of Governments has joined a coalition of business and industry organizations in endorsing a standardized set of policies for on-location production.

The groups see adoption of these standards across the various city and county jurisdictions in Southern California as a way to compete with outside locales for film, television and commercial production.

The association's regional council unanimously moved last week to encourage its member cities to use the guidelines in developing their own local filming regulations and permitting procedures. 

“One of the constant refrains I hear from filmmakers is the need for predictability and uniformity in the film permit process," Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A., said in a statement. FilmL.A., a nonprofit and the largest film permitting organization in the state, is one of the groups involved in the development of the new standard.

The guidelines are an update to the statewide Model Film Ordinance, a document last updated in 2006 that is meant to provide a "uniform set of policies and procedures to secure on-location production."

The updated model was written this year by the California Film Commission with input from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., FilmL.A., and other participants including studios, production companies and industry professionals. A newly created set of best practices was also drafted relating to fees, traffic, cleanup and other considerations to encourage filming.

In May, the board of the California Film Commission adopted the revised Model Film Ordinance. The California Film Commission administers the state film and television tax credit program, coordinates permits for state-owned properties and provides other services that facilitate production.

Last week the three organizations presented the revised model to the Southern California Assn. of Governments as a framework for jurisdictions developing their own policies.

The endorsement goes out to the 191 member cities and six counties that make up SCAG, including the areas that make up the "30-mile zone" where much of the film production in the Los Angeles region occurs.

"This is a very large endorsement with the potential for widespread regional impact," said Philip Sokoloski, a spokesman for FilmL.A.

"This region has more experience and know-how than anywhere in the world when it comes to managing film and TV production, and it's simply good policy for local governments to follow established best practices," California Film Commission Executive Director Amy Lemisch said in a news release. "Widespread adoption of the MFO will help Southern California create jobs and compete more effectively against runaway production."  

A 2005 California Film Commission report quoted in the release found that the loss of 10 feature films (each with budgets of at least $70 million) resulted in a loss of $106 million in state revenue, as well as the loss of jobs and revenue for small businesses.

The entertainment industry accounts for nearly 180,000 jobs and $30 billion in spending in the Southern California region, according to the L.A. County Economic Development Corp.

Some cities are already considering adopting the new guidelines into their own permitting and filming rules. The City Council of Carson, roughly 15 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, revised its own regulations in June by incorporating elements from the revised model. It eliminated a mandatory business license, reduced advance notification requirements and adjusted its permit rate structure.


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