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Whittier works to keep its film-friendly reputation [Whittier Daily News (CA)]

July 8, 2013

YellowBrix

Also read: Whittier's film highlights include 'Back to the Future"

WHITTIER - Whittier has traditionally been a film-friendly city.

Parts of movies such as "Masters of the Universe," "Back to the Future," "Hocus Pocus," "Blow" and many others were shot on location in Uptown and other areas of the city.

But the delicate relationship between Hollywood and Whittier frayed a bit last month during the filming of "Christmas in the City."

Some churches near Central Park complained that they lost precious parking spaces for Sunday services, and business owners on Greenleaf Avenue complained that the shoot lasted longer than they had been told, used more space and obstructed foot traffic to their businesses.

"You can't block our sidewalks," Allan Nakken, executive director of the Whittier Uptown Association, said of filming in Uptown. "You can't just take them over and disregard the people who are shopping."

Apparently, there was a communication breakdown between the film company and the Uptown Association. Nakken said he was told the filming would take about three hours and wrap up around noon. The association's approval is required before the city will issue a permit to film there.

Nakken said the association received $1,500 for what was supposed to be a half-day of filming, and the store Pour Le Bain received an additional $300, he said.

"Most of what I pay people for is a couple of hours of inconvenience," he said.

But the "Christmas in the City" shoot lasted all day, until almost 9 p.m., he said.

When he contacted the film scout by email to request additional compensation, Nakken said he received a terse reply, "I am deleting this unread -- and will not accept any further correspondence from this group (Whittier Uptown Association) until our further discussions with the city."

Assistant Board of Works Director Chris Magdosku, who oversees the city's film permitting process, said he will be meeting with the film company's location manager to try to figure out what went wrong.

But apparently there was some miscommunication between the film company and the Uptown merchants, he said.

The film permit application states that the film company would be shooting until 9 p.m., Magdosku said.

Of the 43 film permits issued by the city during the past three years, 10 of which were for shoots in the Uptown area, it's the only permit that had any problems. The Board of Works took over the film permitting process in August 2010.

David Pelser, director of the Board of Works, said film companies normally are self-contained operations that get in and out of the city pretty fast and with little notice.

"Most of the time, they come in and they're gone before anyone knows they were here," he said.

The challenge is to accommodate the industry without being disruptive to normal city operations, he said.

"Obviously, it's a balancing act," said City Manager Jeff Collier. "We want to be film friendly, but we don't want to do that at the expense of our nonprofits, our residents and our businesses. It's a delicate balance."

He said the city is in the process of updating its film permitting ordinance. That should come before the City Council in three or four months, he said.

The new ordinance will define when films can be shot, clarify issues with the Uptown Association and also incorporate parts of a model film ordinance supplied by the film industry, city officials said.

Since the "Christmas in the City" shoot, Nakken said he has dealt with two more film companies that wanted to film in Whittier.

"Flock of Dudes" shot at night on July Fourth in front of Phlight restaurant without any disruption.

A McDonald's commercial will be shot from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. July 19 in front of Whittier Village Cinemas, said Nakken.

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