Surviving a film shoot on your block

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Film crews may love New York City, but the natives--bothered by vanished parking spaces, noise, and blocked traffic--don’t necessarily reciprocate:

Last month, for example, downtown residents asked the city for a 13-month moratorium on film shoots in the Seaport and Financial Districts.

When a shoot commandeers a residential block, the indigenous population can get especially testy.

“The two biggest problems are noise and rude production assistants,” says Marilyn Dorato, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Block Assocations (GVBA)

Greenwich Village residents got so fed up a few years ago that the GVBA began an online “report card”  for member block associations to provide feedback on how the crews behaved—or didn’t—as well as the relative generosity of their voluntary contributions to each association. 

Ugly Betty, Wall Street 2 and the Sex & the City sequel all made generous block association donations this fall, according to the report card.  As for a Syms commercial filmed on W. 10th Street? Not so much.

“The original Law & Order was always one of the worst,” notes Dorato, citing arrogance and noise as recurring problems.  “S.U.V. and Criminal Intent are fine.”

Besides employing dictatorial production assistants, other film crew offenses include littering, blocking access to residences, and taking up more parking than allowed. Overnight shoots--punctuated by shouted communcation among the crew and klieg lights bearing down through bedroom windows--are also a common flash point.

Size matters when it comes to degree of disruption—but bigger is not necessarily more loutish.

“Big films take up a bigger footprint so in that sense they impact the neighborhood more, but they tend to be more professional,” says Dorato. “Smaller shoots tend to be people breaking into the business who don’t know as much. Commercial shoots tend to be fairly decent.”

Film and parking permits are issued by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting.  

Though crews may request that you walk on a certain side of the street, says Dorato, they are not empowered to order you to do so.  Nor can they insist that you turn off the lights and air conditioning in your apartment to avoid disturbing an outdoor shoot.

“If you have an issue, the first person to try to talk to is the location manager, whose contact info should be on the posting signs,” says Dorato.   “You can also call up the Mayor’s office and find out what the permit allows them to do.”

Her best advice to film crews who want to keep the neighbors happy and cooperative?  

"Polite P.A.'s [production assistants] are a good thing," says Dorato.

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