In January, FilmLA proudly announced that on-location filming in the city has increased 1.3 percent from last year, due to a rise in television production and the tax credit that rewards companies for shooting in LA. That very small increase reverses a trend of declining filming activity for the past several years. FilmLA was created in 1995 to encourage filming, streamline the filming process and make it easier to film in the county of Los Angeles and the 88 different cities within the county, including the city of Los Angeles.
But not everyone is “film-friendly,” and that’s what keeps FilmLA busy. You never know what issues may come up with big shoots, including one in our neighborhood this week – a commercial for Mercedes Benz at the historic Los Angeles Tennis Club at Cahuenga and Clinton in Hancock Park. Fortunately, there were no complaints during that shoot, according to Hancock Park Homeowners Association filming liaison Cami Taylor, who’s been managing the filming in the neighborhood for almost 10 years.
To keep fliming complaint-free, Film LA has also created new neighborhood liaisons, including Guy Langman, to work even more closely with neighborhoods like ours during filming.
“Guy Langman is working really hard,” said Taylor, “but [managing community filming issues is] a work in progress.” Taylor said Langman is especially trying to encourage filming companies to follow the neighborhood’s guidelines. Hancock Park and Windsor Square are two of the city’s most popular neighborhoods for filming, so Langman has also created a map of the areas, where he keeps detailed notes about traffic issues, problems with neighbors and safety concerns. According to Langman, the complaint ratio across the city is very low, just one complaint for every 11 days of filming.
According to FilmLA, commercial production stayed essentially flat in Los Angeles last year, with just 5,201 shoot days. That number is actually higher because the city doesn’t count prep and strike days which can often have as much impact on street parking as shooting days. That’s one change Taylor would like to see the city make in its reporting and deploying of city services like police officers to manage traffic. Commercials remain a major production driver in the Greater Los Angeles Region. For four straight years, commercials have produced more on-location shoot days per year than feature films.
To the untrained observer, the shoot at the tennis club looked as big as some television shoots. For two days, filming equipment, trucks and people clogged the residential streets. But despite those inconveniences, Tennis Club members also seemed delighted that the commercial featured tennis greats Roger Federer and Rod Laver, who were incredibly gracious about giving autographs and spending time with adoring fans. Members were asked to keep their photos off social media, reportedly to keep the story line of the commercial a secret (we heard from a crew member that it has a vintage look). But judging from a few Facebook pages, that was too tough an ask for these tennis fans.
It’s all part of the complicated relationship the city has with filming: balancing the cool factor with the economics and the hassle. And even to many of our Hollywood-jaded neighbors, seeing these two tennis greats in our own back yard was very cool.