Call it the Freedom of Film Information Act.
Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg) is pushing a new law that could put a damper on Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy of bending over backwards for Hollywood. The law that would force filmmakers to cough up data on what movie shoots do to neighborhoods, which the incumbent councilman says is ignored in favor of glowing reviews of the industry’s economic impact.
“We know anecdotally that there is a lot of filming out there, but without the data, it’s hard to measure the impact and develop policy,” Levin said.
The Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting boasts on its web site that entertainment execs are spending $2 billion more in New York annually than they did in 2002, when Bloomberg took office, but the site offers no way for residents to find out which film crew exactly has been leaving wrappers on their stoop. The bill, if passed, would force the city to provide residents with an online database showing how many times their streets have been used for filming. The law would also require the city to divulge the public costs, in addition to the benefits, of filming in public spaces.
Some Brooklynites welcome the legislation, saying film crews make rude neighbors by taking over streets, shining bright lights late into the night, and even unlawfully assaulting Mother Nature.
“They knock down branches,” said Rolf Carle, who lives on picturesque Milton Street in Greenpoint. “They tape signs to the trees, which is illegal, and when they take the signs off, the bark comes off.”
Brooklyn Heights and Greenpoint, both areas that Levin represents, are film company favorites. Last year, Greenpoint neighbors of the soundstage hosting the television musical “Smash” clashed with crews over idling trucks and errant parkers.
Carle thinks Levin’s proposal is a good idea, but says that the mayor’s office exiting the bed it shares with the film industry would go a long way towards addressing the problem.
“We need a way to enforce the laws we have now,” he said. “The fox is guarding the hen house.”
In extreme cases, film companies have turned neighborhood streets into “Groundhog Day,” like when “Boardwalk Empire” filmed on a Dumbo street for 180 days over a year-long period between 2011 and 2012, according to Levin.
Levin has also proposed a law that would suspend alternate-side parking in areas where film crews are shooting. So far, that bill has languished, but it may go up for another vote next session.
Representatives at Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment declined to comment on Levin’s proposal other than to say that they are reviewing it.