March 29, 2006

“Heist” team cashes in on Rodeo Drive cachet

By Borys Kit

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "Everybody knows Rodeo
Drive," says "Heist" writer/producer Mark Cullen. "It
represents glamour to the whole world."

Yes, but not everyone decides to create a TV series about a
handful of thieves who decide to pull off a number of robberies
on the famed street. But that is what Cullen and his brother,
Robb, have done with their new NBC thriller. They now have to
contend with shooting on one of the most expensive pieces of
real estate in the United States.

"Shooting on Rodeo Drive is ... a little harder than we
thought," Robb says.

Beverly Hills is known for having a cooperative film
office, but it also is known for such local restrictions as not
allowing helicopter filming within the city or providing
official street closures.

"The demands are on your time. We've been at locations
where we can set up at 6 a.m. and stay there for 12 hours,"
says Robb, who along with his brother also created FX's
short-lived Las Vegas-set series "Lucky." "You can't do that on
Rodeo Drive. There's just way too many high-end businesses that
need to do business."

Mark elaborates: "You have to get in and get out. And there
are some shots you might not get because you're not allowed to
be there anymore."

So the "Heist"-makers have had to figure out ways to get
their shots without interrupting the flow of commercial traffic
and causing the Rodeo merchants any financial harm. "All these
stores pay very high taxes to be on Rodeo Drive, and we have to
be respectful of that," Robb says.

"Heist," which films all over the L.A. area, shoots on
Rodeo every second weekend. Production begins with a 5:30 a.m.
call time and ends by 11 a.m., when stores begin to open. The
production then moves to such adjacent streets as Camden Drive
and Brighton Way, where it's a little easier to get the needed
shots. The crew uses the Robinsons-May parking lot near the
Beverly Hilton Hotel as its base.

"We are a like a traveling circus," Robb says.

For the most part, viewers aren't going to see any real
Rodeo Drive stores highlighted on the show -- one of the
filming permits stipulates that shots cannot "linger" on a
store for more than two seconds -- but the show scored a coup
when jeweler Bulgari, with a store on Wilshire Boulevard and
Rodeo Drive, offered itself as a target for the fictional

Bulgari was approached to host the show's premiere party,
and, according to Mark, "They said, 'Why don't you put us in
the show?"'

"It's a big deal for a store that opens at 11 o'clock on a
Sunday to have all their representatives (come in much earlier)
and dress a window in amazing jewels -- just for us -- at 6
o'clock in the morning," Robb says. "That is way above and
beyond the call of duty. It was very nice of them."

The Cullens say shooting on Rodeo is critical for their
show, and they still can't believe they are actually shooting
on that street. But at the same time, they liken the process to
shooting anywhere else.

"It's not unlike anywhere you shoot on the street," Robb
says. "You have to be very respectful of the store owners and
of the people who work there."

Except in this case, the stores are selling merchandise
like fancy $20,000 Picasso sketches that a star or executive
might want to hang in his or her own bathroom.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter