"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Don’t You Tell ME Where I Can or Can’t Walk

The other day, we talked about our favorite NYC pet peeves. And I forgot one of my favorites, the one that makes me my father’s son, full of righteous indignation: film crews who block off the sidewalks. In particular, the cocksure P.A.’s, wearing shorts, and strapped down with walkie talkies who stand around like the own the jernt and aggresively usher pedestrain traffic to the other side of the street. These yo-yo’s have infuriated me for so long that I don’t give them the benefit of the doubt, just a hard look.

This morning, I got out of the subway in midtown and saw a couple of these dudes and I looked one of them up-and-down with a look of disgust on my face. He met my eyes, unsure of why I was giving him an attitude. I had to laugh at myself as I walked away. But I didn’t feel bad about giving him the molochio.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  NYC

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 19, 2010 10:33 am

Chyll Will, I know there are exceptions to the rule, of course!


2 ms october   ~  Aug 19, 2010 10:42 am

[0] good one alex, these self-important dicks are too much.

chyll, did you happen to be doing some work last week on a production called "the electric company" on 115th near morningside park?

3 RagingTartabull   ~  Aug 19, 2010 10:44 am

the maloich!

did you hear the story about the dude a couple of weeks ago trying to get to his apartment on the UWS only to be blocked by the new Joseph Gordon Levitt movie being shot. one thing leads to another and the next thing you know the 22 year old PA is getting headbutted by this disgruntled guy. and while I'm not advocating violence against PA's, I think there was a little corner of every New Yorker's id that said "yeah, I could see that"

4 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 19, 2010 11:14 am

3) mos def!

5 Chyll Will   ~  Aug 19, 2010 12:05 pm


[2] No, I worked on the pilot for the new Electric Company three years ago and a couple of episodes afterward. I haven't worked on that show in two years, but it's cool, I have other things keeping me busy right now.

Like Brad Pitt as Jesse James said, "I was about to get mad..." Thanks for that, AB!

It's called a lockup. And I despise them more than you do.

Honestly, I understand the frustration, and let me tell you that it's just as frustrating to be the one caught in the middle of a big (ahem) contest. This is the one thing I hate about being a PA that has me not only has me working to get into a different (higher) position, but also being selective about the jobs I take. I've been on the receiving end of not only looks, but curses and end-runs and all sorts of backlash on both ends. On one hand the production is trying to get a particular shot that needs to be clean in terms of actions within the frame, and pedestrians are an unpredictable sort (they can and often do stare into the camera, at an actor or actress or even disrupt the action by doing something to get attention); when you're trying to establish a mood or setting, anything outside of that will not only waste time, but blow a lot of money for production because they are on a short time schedule. If people realized that it would be easier to let the production finish their job, the production would be out of their way much quicker. Besides, shots normally don't take more than one minute at a time, if that.

On the other hand, you have the pedestrian who is trying to get home, trying to get to work or wherever and may have been having a hard time as it was before this happens, then is sometimes rudely treated by an incompetent or insensitive PA (it happens a lot, yes) and that only aggravates a situation that could at any moment become unruly. I know this and I sympathize. But try to look at it from our point of view: PAs are the low man on the totem pole in a production, we get very little respect from anyone above us. We are treated like rented mules because we are supposed to work like them, or in a lit of cases, to act as human traffic cones. And we are trying to make a living like anyone else. In my case, I try to be really polite, but firm so NO ONE gets into a screaming match with each other, and I'll placate by answering any questions I can and treat the pedestrian like a a VIP. If they blow through anyway, I can't help that and they get yelled at by someone else, but if it happens to much, guess what? They fire me and hire another PA.

So the guy or gal who breaks through and vindicates all those who are inconvenienced by shitty filmmakers only ends up hurting the one guy who understands what that person is feeling, but is forced to stop you anyway. It doesn't stop the production, they have permits from the Mayor's office and are given permission to film there anyway (to all the people who loudly ask, "Do you have a permit?", yes, they always have permits) and will get the shot they need regardless.

I'm not defending the PAs who know better than to be rude to people but are either burnt out or don't care. In a lot of cases, PAs are newbies to the film industry who are looking to gain experience and join one of the crews on set or work in the office. The vets like me try to impart some wisdom on them and sometimes it takes, sometimes it doesn't. A PA who is a snob and treats people like crap is either a newbie or from LA, from what I can gather, and in either case they will learn by experience. But for the most part, we're not trying to give people a hard time, we're trying to survive and grow into newer (and in my opinion much better) responsibilities so we don't have to be the obnoxious guy blocking the street for a so-called visionary.

To be honest, if I had the choice I would not shoot in NYC at all because of the aggressiveness of it's denizens, I really don't think New Yorkers appreciate what fimmaking brings to the city and would be sorry if all filmmaking here went away. Maybe you think it would be great, like getting rid of NYC cabs for a day or two. But after a while, you'd realize once the taxes start skyrocketing because of the loss of income for the city and businesses that thrive on the film industry (and you don't realize how wide that goes here), you'll know it was a mistake to let them shoot all the NYC scense in Toronto or Vancouver or (gasp) Chicago...

But, just understand it's not personal. I don't like stopping people anymore than people like being stopped, so now I try to avoid jobs which involve lockups. I don't want to PA anymore, but you have to do the work until someone sees fit to hire you for something more important, or you start producing your own work. And like everyone else, we gotta pay bills. Filmmaking is a tough business that most people would run away screaming from if they really knew and saw what was involved, but I feel for you and apologize on behalf of the vets who are trying to make it easier for you do do your daily routine; give us a moment and we'll be out of your hair in no time.

[3] I'd like to know the whole story behind that. The 22 yo PA likely didn't know better to just leave that guy alone or stay away from him. We take only a certain amount of abuse, but we often never let it escalate to that point, and most people would just let the guy do his thing so he would not be a disruption. Now if the guy came back or stayed to harass the PA, the Key PA and maybe the AD would come by to defuse that situation and if that didn't work, the police would be called and that would be the end of it. The sad part is, that PA will probably be blacklisted and not get any work for a while because of the notoriety of that situation; it may or may not have been his fault, but he ends up with the shit end of the stick while everyone else gets what they want. They key thing to do in the face of hostility is to back off; being macho is not covered under production's insurance, and even if that wasn't the case, as I allude above, they aren't likely to care that much and assume it was your fault anyway.

It's the PA's nightmare, we get blamed for someone else's poor planning or an outsider's hostility.

6 Chyll Will   ~  Aug 19, 2010 12:07 pm

Sorry for the book-long comment, but from a frustrated PA's standpoint, that needed to be said... >;)

7 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 19, 2010 12:07 pm

Will, once again, you are the MAN.

8 ms october   ~  Aug 19, 2010 12:20 pm

[5.6] thanks for sharing all that chyll. as always depending on which end you are on there is a different perspective.
i do agree with you regarding the importance of the film/tv industry to nyc's economy. it irks me that l&o is going to la.

i thought i had seen you mention doing some work on the electric company in the past so that's why i wondered.

9 knuckles   ~  Aug 19, 2010 12:27 pm

That was one of the more interesting and illuminating non-baseball things I’ve read on the Banter lately. And that’s saying somethin’ what with Alex’s continuous stream of Taster’s Cherce that make me swing by the grocery store on the way home some days, having put a craving in my belly for this that or the other, the music/movie posts, etc.

10 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Aug 19, 2010 12:33 pm

Yes, Will, thank you! That was an inspired and informative comment. Thanks for sharing.

11 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Aug 19, 2010 12:41 pm

Oh, and as to shooting elsewhere, you can't really do that and maintain credibility. I know instantly (as I'd imagine all NYers do) if a film is shot in NY or just pretending to be. When it's just pretending to be, the whole thing is ruined in my eyes. No more suspension of disbelief, the whole thing just falls apart and feels like a sham.

I mean, really, go ahead, try to shoot "Taxi Driver" somewhere else, relying on winks and nods to get the thing through.

If you have to pretend to be in NY I honestly, for the life of me, don't know why they don't just scrap NY altogether. Either the city matters to the film or it doesn't. If it matters, it can't be faked. If it can be faked, it doesn't matter so why not just come clean and change the screenplay to be set in Toronto or Baltimore or wherever the fuck.

12 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 19, 2010 12:56 pm

What's disappointing is that so few movies shot here have a real NYC feel. That's one of the things I liked about watchind "BROADWAY DANNY ROSE" recently, the NYC street scenes feel like NYC, not some roped-off, fantasy New York.

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