A bill before the New York City Council this afternoon would require the timely posting of film and television production locations and times, in a searchable format, to the city's website.
The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment currently requires productions to distribute letters notifying local residents and merchants at least 48 hours in advance of a shoot, an agency spokesperson said in an email. Productions are also obliged to post "No Parking" signs with a contact number 48 hours before a shoot begins, and residents are encouraged to contact the Mayor's Office with their concerns immediately via 311.
But bill sponsors Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer and Council member Ben Kallos think these measures aren't giving residents enough warning. The proposed legislation is one part of Kallos and Brewer's larger effort to make more public data freely available online and the city government more transparent.
“I think most often people know there’s a production because they see a sign saying 'No Parking,’ or when they go to find their car, it’s no longer there because it’s been moved for a film production," Kallos said. (According to the city's website, production companies pay to tow cars the night before or morning of a shoot, and they are expected to keep a list of the spots where relocated vehicles are parked.)
Brewer told Capital she has fielded hundreds of complaints and inquiries by telephone, citing the after-hours posting of signs as a particular concern.
"It’s 6 o’clock in the evening, and there’s nobody to call in the city of New York, so if it was up on the web, that would be a perfect example of how to use the information," she said.
A database of film and TV production permits in New York City, posted as early as possible and searchable by community board district, would ease the co-existence of New Yorkers and the city's growing filmed entertainment industry, Kallos said.
“New York City is the best and biggest film set in the world and it so happens that we have eight and a half million people living here, and we just want to make sure that everyone can live together," he said. "Part of that just means being good neighbors and letting folks know ahead of time."
Twenty-nine TV series were based in the city during the 2013-2014 season, and an average of 200 films shoot here every year, the agency spokesperson confirmed. About 130,000 New Yorkers work in film and TV production.
The industry has come to define New York and drive its tourism, Kallos said, citing shows like "Gossip Girl," "Sex and the City," and "Law and Order."
An added benefit of a production database would be that New Yorkers could find and watch a taping of their favorite TV programs.
“Honestly, as a fan, I’d like to be able to know... ‘Gossip Girl’ is shooting down the block. I’d like to be able to meet the cast," Kallos said (for the record: the popular WB teen series concluded in 2012). "What New Yorker wouldn’t want to meet their favorite actor?"
But would production companies and the NYPD Movie/TV unit charged with supervising exterior shoots welcome large crowds of fans?
“I think the production companies would rather have an engaged and happy community, and I think that any time your production has the type of fan base that people are coming out to meet your actors is a great thing," Kallos said. "And in a world of social media that’s only going to drive revenue, because every time somebody takes a picture with an actor or actress, that’s going all over the world...and driving more people to watch the show."
The NYPD's department of communications did not return Capital's request for a comment before press time.