Wages and Costs of a Hollywood Invasion

  • 08/23/2019
  • James Preston Allen

By James Preston Allen, Publisher

For locals, a film shoot in San Pedro can also feel like a case of injustice. Often like a Hollywood studio invasion, complete with street closures and manned by location managers, security guards, grips and gaffers, teamsters and trucks; sometimes a cast of hundreds. From the local perspective, the mitigation of these impacts are a mere pittance compared to the cost in lost foot traffic, inconvenience and stolen parking on their blocks. As the permitting agency for the Los Angeles region, FilmLA is not involved with matters of compensation. Agreements of this kind are negotiated between the production company and the business owners or landlords on a case-by-case issue.  Linda Alexander of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce is charged with “liasoning” between the parties but often does not represent the businesses adequately, according to some on 6th Street.

FilmLA,  the agency that acts as the go-between for production companies and cities in  the agency’s service areas throughout the county of Los Angeles, says there are some 260 Hollywood film shooting days a year in the San Pedro Harbor area. The shoots run the gamut of Edison power company commercials overlooking Point Fermin from the basketball courts near the Korean Bell of Friendship to film shoots at the Cabrillo Marina or the city hall building on 7th and Harbor Boulevard.

Production studios for a 36-hour shoot would, at minimum, pay $5,200 to shoot in Los Angeles, but the permit rates could be much higher depending on the location. The breakdown of cost as of July 1, 2019 is as follows.

  • The pay for FilmLA monitors, assuming only one is needed, is $2,647, this includes the application of  double-time rates for jobs that last 12 hours or longer
  • Filming permits in Los Angeles start at $699
  • L.A. County road inspection fee: $370
  • Road application fee/issuance fee: $168
  • Road encroachment permit processing fee: $306
  • Flood control use fee: $937
  • Permit issuance fee: $135
  • The Warner Grand Theatre, a city facility, has a flat rate of $2,500 per day, plus staff time

This, of course, does not include the negotiated money the studios pay to individual business owners that are impacted. The sticking point for some local businesses, however,  is that not all the business owners that are impacted are paid ― and by impacted, we’re talking about street closures and lost parking resulting in lost business.  Most of the disgruntled business owners in the recent filming refused to speak on the record fearing retribution from the council office.

Still, with these fees and the negotiated settlements with business owners, Hollywood studios are still getting off cheaper than building a 1930s Los Angeles replica on a backlot or shipping all the talent and equipment out of state. Parts of old San Pedro are perfect for many period films and the location scouts have a catalogue of places they often use like the Warner Grand Theatre. And the San Pedro civic leaders should be circumspect about too much gentrification changing the look of the town.

While some are awestruck by the glow of the lights-camera-action in the neighborhood, there are some who have become immune to it all and often annoyed by the disruption. The intent of all of this is to keep Hollywood studios filming in LA and keep local talent working. The recent Perry Mason remake by HBO is a case in point. Several hundred actors, film crew and teamsters from southern California get hired; most of these are good union jobs.

Yet curiously enough, two of the three leading actors the highest paid on most film shoots, Matthew Rhys (Perry Mason) and Tatiana Maslany (who plays Sister Alice, the leader of the Radiant Assembly of God) are both foreign born.  This has become a tradition in Hollywood of importing talent yet seeking to keep productions “local.” Sort of ironic don’t you think?

So for all of the disruption of the business area and buzz this film shoot created not much notice was taken of the overtly racist billboard planted strategically across from La Buvette Wine Bistro and the The Whale & Ale. Many people gawked at the antique cars and liked the fictional store fronts that made 7th Street “come alive” as one local said. But the huge advertisement with the “Colored Flying Circus” was politely ignored during a week when racism and white nationalism grabbed the headlines because of two mass shootings of people of color elsewhere.

It wasn’t even a topic of discussion until this reporter posed the question — “So just what do you think about that?”

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James Preston Allen

James Preston Allen is the founding publisher of Random Lengths News. He has been involved in the Los Angeles Harbor Area community for more than 40 years.