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May 23, 2016

The deal: LA County's contract with FilmLA, Part I

A while back a friend made a passing suggestion: "Why don't you ask the County to send you a copy of the FilmLA contract?"

"Great idea!" I said in an effort to appear open to suggestion while instantly dismissing the idea. I had no desire to plunge into a Kafkaesque bureaucracy. What did I know? Where would I start? Why would anyone help? I probably couldn't get a pothole fixed! How would I ever get LA County to send along FilmLA's contract? Best to leave that stuff to Woodward and Bernstein.

But then, for no other reason than to say I did, I reluctantly checked the internet. Bingo! In less than 10 minutes I was staring at a pdf version of the LA County contract signed by FilmLA. And to think, I could have been playing MegaMillions. Wasted luck. "So it goes..."

Is this the actual active FilmLA contract?   I can’t say for certain.  But, it’s likely to be pretty close.
Here’s why:
  • This version of the contract was used for public hearings in 2009 when FilmLA was awarded a sole- source agreement. (A meeting may not have happened.)
  • The contract has the signatures of both the President of FilmLA and the LA County counsel.
  • The 2104 renewal of the FilmLA amendment says all terms and conditions “will remain the same.”
To see the 2009 FilmLA contract, click here.
To see the 2014 renewal amendment, click here.
You're probably asking yourself, "why the heck would anyone care about the County's contract with FilmLA? What nutcase would want to wade through 100 pages of gobbledygook?" I can't account for the latter question, but as for the former: FilmLA has the first and last word on who gets a filming permit in Altadena. So if you are a filmmaker or a neighbor with an interest in filming, I promise this gem is chock-full of useful information.

What has FilmLA been contracted to do for LA County?

The FilmLA's contract's includes a statement of work which lists four jobs:
  1. Coordinate and process film/still photography permits and fees for onlocation motion picture, television, and commercial production events
  2. Coordinate the issuance of film/still photography permits in a manner that balances the needs of, and attempts to mitigate the impact of productions on, area neighborhoods and merchant districts (my emphasis)
  3. Provide the County reports on a quarterly basis
  4. Market and promote the County to the entertainment industry

In this post I'll only cover job #2. In subsequent posting, I'll cover other parts of the contract.

Job #2: Balancing needs and mitigating impact
The LA County Counsel who drafted the contract was definitely concerned about the impact filming might have on the businesses and neighborhoods that would serve as studio's new backlot. In that spirit, the contract outlines six need-balancing, impact-mitigating tasks for FilmLA.

Task 1: Notification
The contract requires FilmLA to notify you at least 24 hours before a shoot if you live within 500 feet of the film shoot location or within 500 feet "of production related parking."

If you live in one of the Altadena's neighborhoods with Special Filming Conditions, an earlier notification may be advised. 'May' and not 'shall' because the all Neighborhood Special Filming Conditions are front-loaded with fine print that asserts:
"While these Special Filming Conditions will be included as terms if a permit or filming in this area is issued, they are not intended to and do not, establish the criteria or standards for determining whether or not a particular permit (or permits) will be issued for this area."
For more info about the Altadena Special filming conditions see: Special Filming Conditions for Altadena.

Task 2: 24/7 access
The contract requires FilmLA to operate a 24-hour, 7 -day per week hotline to respond to community concerns. I've heard that a human answers the phone. See Task 3.

Task 3: Track complaints
The contract requires FilmLA to "maintain and operate procedures to investigate and track complaints, and provide a process for complaint resolution." It goes on to say they "shall respond to a complaint within two hours...[and] attempt to reach a resolution within a day."

Here's the type of complaints they are expected to "fully resolve:"
1. Inquiries about what's on a permit including proposed street parking/posting, over-all filming/still photography activity or scenes.

2. Questions about a community survey received by a neighbor. (Note: there is no connection with the post-shoot survey offered here at

3. Issues and conflicts that would be caused by the filming. The following examples are included: conflict with a scheduled event; impact on business; impact on a neighbors daily routine like access to their home; traffic congestion; lack of parking; big intrusions like gunfire, pyrotechnics, and helicopters; damages to private or public property; and complaints on film/still photography crew behavior.

4. Calls from the County Officials for information about general rules and guidelines and data. For example: the process for obtaining a film permit, the protocol for community surveys or a request for a filming frequency report.

5. Inquiries from neighbors about the permit process, the film company's responsibilities and special issues for particular locations caused by past productions.
FilmLA collects complaints through their website. To file a complaint go to the website and click on the "Take Our Survey Now" button. Here's a link:

There is a catch. The FilmLA survey is only intended for neighbors who have previously contacted FilmLA with a complaint. They use the data to report complaint resolutions rates to the County. If you haven't already filed a complaint, don't bother with the FilmLA survey.

Thanks to NBC4 (who paid for the data), you can see a map of the complaints that have been filed in the City of LA. It's impressive. The map is posted at on the NBC web site.
Here's a link to the NBC4 map of the complaint data. The initial view of the map is misleading; be sure to zoom out and scroll around.

Task 4: Assign monitors
The contract requires FilmLA to assign Monitors, as needed, to film shoots to ensure permit compliance, assist in solving production-related problems, and mediate disputes. i.e. Monitors are not required.

FilmLA has sole responsibility for the assessment and enforcement of filming frequency concerns. However, they are not responsible for enforcement of permit conditions. Apparently that's the job of the on-location law officer. (see Do you feel that a film shoot is ignoring the conditions on the permit? Here's what you can do...). There is no account of how permit conditions are enforced on small shoots when the filming permit does not require an onsite officer. (There was recently a 3-week shoot in our area without either a FilmLA Monitor or onsite law enforcement.)

Task 5: Include Special Filming Conditions on permits
The contract requires FilmLA to ensure that Special Filming Conditions are included in all permits.

Six Altadena neighborhoods have Special Filming Conditions. For information about Special Filming Conditions in Altadena check the report on this website: Special Filming Conditions for Altadena.

Task 6. Community outreach
The contract requires FilmLA to implement community outreach for neighborhoods and commercial districts. Much of the information on this website was provided by FilmLA through their community outreach program.

Who's minding the store?
The FilmLA contract is managed by the LA County CEO. The CEO has appointed a 'project manager' who is responsible for "ensuring that the objectives of this Agreement are met."

The 2014 renewal amendment, the one that extended FilmLA's contract from 2104 thru 2019, identified Frank Cheng as the County's Project Manager for the renewed FilmLA contract. Here's how Mr. Cheng's contact information as it is listed on the 2014 renewal amendment.
Frank Cheng, Manager, Chief Executive Office
County of Los Angeles, Chief Executive Office
500 West Temple Street, Room 726
Los Angeles, California 90012
Telephone: (213) 893-7938
Facsimile: (213) 620-1381
E-Mail Address: fcheng©
At one point I left a message with the County CEO office requesting a copy of the contract, but no one returned the call. (Imagine that!) In any case, it seems possible that if FilmLA fails to address any of the items list above, you might consider contacting the County's Project Manager.

If anyone tries, please let us know.


  1. Anonymous5/23/2016

    I wonder what Frank Cheng really does, I mean, what is his job. Perhaps he was the attorney who looked over or drew up the contract?

    1. Hi Anonymous. Thanks for the comment.
      I don't know the answer to your question, but I'll speculate.

      Mr. Cheng is listed as the 'Manager of Strategic Initiatives' in the LA County CEO's office. The LA County "Open data" site, lists Mr. Cheng as currently employed. He's on LinkedIN and appears he's has a IT, not a legal, background.

      I believe that the FilmLA contract must have been drawn up by the LA County Counsel Office if for no other reason than that the contract was signed by Richard Bloom, Principal Deputy County Counsel.(p.50)