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June 30, 2016

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

1st recital of the FilmLA contract
"WHEREAS, there is a need for and interest in programs, projects and activities designed to encourage filming and expedite the processing of filming/still photography permits within the County to reduce runaway production and to encourage cooperation between residents, merchants and film production companies."
"Whereas" is just magic. It beats "abracadabra" hands down. In a mere 7 letters, it can transform an idea into a fact. No need for frog powder, the blood of a rooster or a fingernail clipping from a Supervisor. What could be easier?

Imagine if "Whereas" worked for physics? Consider the possibilities! "Whereas" there is anti-gravity..., or "Whereas" there is warp-speed..., or "Whereas" there is time travel... Boom! No more heavy lifting or long car trips. We'd even have YouTube videos of actual dinosaurs in addition to kittens and puppies. But, sadly the magic of "whereas" only works on matters of judgment in legal documents. Pity.

On the plus side, the Supervisors have proven that expediting filming permits is a lot easier than building an anti-gravity device. In September of 2009, the County signed up FilmLA to provide of our film permitting services and then extended their contract in 2014. If only all hard problems were this easy.

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.
So what's in the contract?
FilmLA is on the hook to provide the four following county services:
  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
I summarized item #2 and item #3 in previous posts. In this post I'll cover the contractual terms in item #1: Coordinate the filming process.

Item #1 is FilmLA's first order of business. It's what they do — process filming permits. In fact, FilmLA's very existence depends on the funds produced from fees charged for permit processing and monitoring. No filming permits; no film production in LA; no FilmLA. (FilmLA receives no funding from the County.)

The dozen activities that define permit coordination and processing:
Note: These activities only apply to "onlocation production in the unincorporated areas of the County ... and on County owned or leased property." Incorporated areas operate under different rules.
  1. Provide a one-stop resource for filming permit shoppers
  2. Obtain those irritating approvals and service charges from all applicable County departments including the Fire Department, Department of Beaches and Harbors, Department of Public Works, Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Sheriff's Department
  3. Collect all the service charges and send the funds to the County. (But don't keep any)
  4. Notify the film company when Special Conditions are connected with a location. (see the list of Altadena neighborhoods with Special Conditions.)
  5. Refer film company quibbles to the proper department for a contest of titans: County rules vs political influence
  6. Charge for the effort to coordinate and issue the permit. (This is the source of FilmLA's operating funds). By the by, keep enough of the cash on hand in case a film company stiffs the County
  7. Stick to the permit prices on the County menu. No jacking up the prices
  8. Apply the same application to all applicants, except for students and a few others who are scraping by
  9. Remember, the County's Project Manager can change the fees (based on the Consumer Price Index)
  10. Require permit applicants to have Commercial General Liability insurance
  11. Use the web-based system to record department approvals so stuff doesn't get lost
  12. Require the film company to submit to a set of "General Terms and Conditions" as a pre-requiste for granting the permit. And, just in case no one forgets, attach the "General Terms and Conditions, as well as the Filmmakers' Code of Professional Responsibility and any Special Filming Conditions to the permit
Two items on this list deserve a bit more detail: The insurance required for a permit and the obligation the film company takes on by signing the "General Terms and Conditions." I found a few surprises. You might as well. Stay tuned.

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