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L.A. County supervisors are split on Grand Park filming fees

Two want to get rid of them for six months to increase local filming; three fear that the public will get shortchanged by limited access.

April 14, 2013|By Jason Song
  • Jovon Washington, left, and Nay Jospine, both of Echo Park, participate in a free yoga class on the lawn of Grand Park.
Jovon Washington, left, and Nay Jospine, both of Echo Park, participate… (Francine Orr, Los Angeles…)

Two Los Angeles County supervisors want to temporarily eliminate filming fees at downtown's newly opened Grand Park to drum up Hollywood interest in the site.

The other three, however, are wary of dropping fees, fearing it could close off parts of the sloping park to people who are flocking to the yoga classes and outdoor concerts.

"I don't know why [eliminating fees] would be warranted or justified," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. "Green space is at a premium in urban areas, and the public should have first priority."

PHOTOS: Downtown L.A.'s Grand Park

The $56-million park, which stretches from Bunker Hill to City Hall, has attracted more than 19,000 visitors since opening last year, according to county estimates.

But the 12-acre site has attracted only one film crew and a still-photography shoot, something supervisors Don Knabe and Michael D. Antonovich would like to change.

The two have recommended that the county waive its filming fees for six months as a way to "help establish Grand Park as an icon" and increase local filming.

Knabe and Antonovich agreed that activities for residents should be the first priority but said more needs to be done to keep film production in the area. The proposed six-month grace period would give county officials an idea of how much demand there is for filming at the park and help them set future filming rates.

We want to "be supportive and a partner in [a] very productive business for jobs here in Los Angeles County," Knabe said.

The county charges film crews $20,000 per block of park space that they use, which is far more than it costs to shoot at other, better known regional landmarks such as Griffith Observatory, where it costs $10,000 a day for exterior shots, or the Huntington Library, which charges a daily average of $11,000.

Several film and business leaders have said high filming costs have kept crews away from downtown.

"We need the county to step up and start identifying ways to stop the exodus of work out of Southern California," said Ed Duffy, vice president of Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers and drivers.

The producers of "About Last Night," which has not been released, paid the county $20,000 to film at the park shortly before it opened last summer.

The best-known movie scene in the area, a sequence in "500 Days of Summer" where Joseph Gordon-Levitt walked in front of a fountain by the County Hall of Administration and danced joyously on a path, was filmed before Grand Park officially opened. The production company paid $400, which was the park rate at the time, according to county officials.

Grand Park fees are especially high when compared with other county facilities, such as the arboretum in Arcadia, which charges about $2,500 a day, or state parks, which are free.

"Los Angeles County is no longer encouraging filming in the county, and these high filming fees are just one example of another disincentive," said Adriana Fernandez, the legislative affairs manager with the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn.

But other supervisors have balked at their colleagues' proposal.

"I don't think Grand Park wants to be an icon for the film industry," said Gloria Molina, who has been a vocal backer of Grand Park. "Going after public facilities of this type limits access."

Molina, Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky favor a proposal by other county executives to reduce fees, possibly to about $5,000 a day.

Yaroslavsky said he's not inclined to let fees sink much further.

"I know what a pilot program of six months of free product will be," he said.

"It will be very popular. It will be very difficult to change it once you've offered something for free," he said. "I hope [the fees] don't change in a downward direction any further ... because I won't support it."

Supervisors are scheduled to vote on the film fees later this month.

jason.song@latimes.com

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