September 8, 2008
Blowing Up Long Beach
We make no claims about our film credits, except that we know a good movie when we see one. And we were grateful that the folks at the Long Beach Events & Film Office returned our call last week, even though the name we left wasn't Woody Allen or anything close to it, because we were wondering:
How the city can allow window-rattling special effects in the dead of night in downtown Long Beach - a disturbance that left residents of the Camden Harbor View apartments, among others, shaken and bleary-eyed last month.Long Beach is an attractive site for moviemakers. Clear skies, ocean views, parks, the Queen Mary, the Spruce Goose dome, a quaint airport and everything from Joe Jost's to the Pyramid are all available for location shots. The office's website (www.filmlongbeach.com) lists 23 film-attractive sites, along with 1,468 movies, TV shows and commercials that were shot in Long Beach from 1999 to 2004.
Car makers seem to have an Infiniti for Long Beach. Commercials for Buicks, Hondas, Mercedes, Subarus, Pontiacs and Chevrolets all have been shot in Movietown. Michelob Light was featured in a commercial shot in Veteran Stadium. And who knows how many other commercials, movies and TV shows have been shot in Tinseltown South since 2004; the website doesn't list them.
Frankly, after the distorted view of Long Beach as Gang and Graffiti Capital of North America in the movie "Freedom Writers," we like films and commercials that show off our skyline, not that your average film-goer in Poughkeepsie could tell whether what he's watching was shot in Long Beach or on a sound stage.
Which gets us back to the explosive special effects that kept downtown residents up all night while the movie "Transformers 2" was being shot.
Our reporter Paul Eakins described how one family in the Camden Harbor View apartments near Rainbow Harbor was caught by surprise by the mock explosions. That's not supposed to happen, according to Tasha Day, film coordinator for the city. Flyers are distributed to residents in the filming area. But here's the rub: Since the buildings are often closed to nonresidents, either the building manager or the president of the building's homeowners association has the authority to sign off on the filming. They have the responsibility for informing tenants. Apparently that might not have been done in the "Transformers" episode last month. Thus, two sleepless nights for at least one family.
Is it worth it? Film companies reimburse the city for all expenses incurred by fire, police and other city services. Day estimated that the city, businesses and others come out about $8 million ahead on the film deals, not an insignificant sum. But how do you put a price on a good night's sleep?
You don't, which is why we can't see one good reason for blowing up downtown Long Beach or any other part of the city at 2 a.m. just because a filmmaker wants to. Last time we checked, disturbing the peace is against the law. It ought to be enforced. Even for filmmakers with fat checkbooks.
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