LAPD-Hollywood Feud Clouds Tony V’s Bid For Gov


The Big Squeeze: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is caught between an LAPD rock and a Hollywood hard place, as cops and movie crews battle over security costs for Tinsel Town location shoots.

The boulder up against Hizzoner’s backside is Police Chief William J. Bratton, who wants to boot uniformed retired officers who provide film-set security in favor of active, off-duty LA cops, who would be accountable to his commanders — and paid nearly double the going rate.

Pressure on the other cheek comes from the financially-struggling film industry, reeling from the recession and record low numbers of on-location TV and film shootings in LA. They say Chief Bratton’s proposal – on which Villaraigosa has stayed decidedly mum – will make it even less attractive for film crews to shoot in L.A., worsening the problem of runaway production.

As he weighs a run for governor, Antonio Alcalde faces a possible political embarrassment no matter which side he favors in the feud: How would it look if he launched a campaign without full backing of his own chief? And what kind of LA mayor wades into a governor’s race without big time Hollywood support?

When Calbuzz started asking questions about the dispute, Villaraigosa’s press people hemmed, hawed and scurried around for two days to come up with some answers, and finally told us late Friday the mayor is hoping to work out a compromise. But retired cops have had the sweet gig for location security services for half-a-century, and it looks to us like the mayor risks honking off either the film industry – which has rallied around the ex-officers — or the LAPD and Bratton, who argues that the incumbent retirees are not accountable.

As far as we can tell, nobody has looked at how this issue might affect Tony V if he runs for governor. The LA Times has been following the issue as a business story and, to some degree, as a local labor beef between the LAPD and the coalition of labor and industry groups, That includes the Teamsters and the Motion Picture Association of America, who are fighting to keep things as they’ve been for the last 50 years. As Nikki Finke has noted in Deadline Hollywood Daily, Film LA is peeved that the movie-cop issue remains unstuck.

Location cops now make about $50 an hour. Under Bratton’s proposal, if the studios want to keep cops in LAPD uniforms, they’d have to pay time-and-a-half plus a 14% administrative fee — which adds up to $80-$100 an hour, according to Gene Patterson, secretary of the Motion Picture Officers Association.

“The mayor doesn’t have to be caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Marilyn Bitner of Plan A Locations, a company that brokers residential and commercial sites to the film industry: “If you drive out production, you’re losing resources that fund the police,” she told Calbuzz. “I don’t know why the mayor won’t weigh in”

Bitner and other LA sources also told us Villaraigosa has only a perfunctory relationship with the film industry, which may help explain why it took Villaraigosa’s political consultants and LA press people two full days to explain where he stands on the issue.

We got bounced from one staff person to another until spokeswoman Janelle Erickson finally told us: “The mayor enjoys a very close relationship with the film and entertainment industry in LA. It’s always a priority in the mayor’s office to support an industry that creates jobs.”

According to Erickson, Villaraigosa is working on a “compromise” that would allow retired cops to continue location work, but not in their LAPD uniforms. There’s the rub: retired cops and filmmakers we spoke to said that’s no compromise at all. Unless movie cops look like real LAPD officers, they say, there’s no way they can command the authority needed to secure a film site.

“You can’t stop traffic and run interference if you look like a mall security guard,” said Peterson, a retired detective supervisor with 37 years in the LAPD.

Erickson referred us to the Director’s Guild of America where spokeswoman Sahar* Moridani, offered this lukewarm comment: “We’ve always enjoyed and appreciated the open access and the support we’ve received from the mayor’s office.”

It is true that Villaraigosa enjoyed financial support in his re-elect from high-end names in the entertainment world like Spielberg, Geffen, Katzenberg, Hanks, Reiner, Streisand et. al. But they aren’t the ones on the front lines of this fight.

“He may have a relationship with the Steven Spielbergs of the world,” Bitner said, “but he doesn’t have a relationship with the working industry – the people below the line,” referring to location managers, line producers, camera, set and design crews, plus the large number of others who work on location.

So who’s Villaraigosa gonna pick — the working film industry or the chief? As one L.A. media pal of ours put it: “Kind of your classic lady or the tiger.”

*Oops — in the original we called her Sarah. Sorry.

Furthermore: Since our original post, we caught another look at the issue on Sharon Waxman’s “The Wrap”

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There are 7 comments for this post

  1. avatar Dave says:

    Great item! They must have hated your calls

  2. avatar Loveto says:

    Good Lord, who picks these stories and writes these CalBuzz headlines?

    There is not one credible argument in this story to suggest that this mundane municipal issue is “clouding” the Governor’s race. In fact there is no discussion of any political consequences at all.

    I kept waiting for your analysis to live up to your headline. “Movie Moguls move to Meg in retaliation for Reed and Malloy lockout…” “LA Cops make Newsome their new son after losing movie set ego trip…” “Governator calls on Mayor V to see the movie light…”

    Did you call the police union and ask them if this is a big deal to them? Because you already quoted a spokesperson for the movie industry acknowledging that the big names of Hollywood don’t care about this!

    Did you ever think it might have taken the Mayor two days to respond to your query because he’s never even heard of this silly issue?

    “Cloud the Governor’s race?” Yeah the voters are really hanging their votes on this one!

    C’mon guys, your enthusiasm is appreciated, but try to keep it real.

  3. avatar dgabbard says:

    I agree with Loveto. Whay really has LAPD rank and file is whether their new headquarters will carry the name of Chief Parker. The old guard is finding the old days are over and not much well liked. By comparison the movie security issue isn’t even a tempest in a teapot…

    Mayor’s AV’s ambitions are emperiled because of his poor showing in the primary–55% against a bunch of no-names. I am a major booster of the mayor and hope he’ll see that as a sign he needs to focus on doing his job here not squander time and political oomph on a likely failed bid for Governor.

  4. avatar Jonathan says:

    L.A. has lost hundreds of millions in filming revenue with the flight of major studio location productions to cities (like New York) and states (such as Michigan) that have offered such enticing tax incentives that it is actually less expensive to film in those places than in Hollywood’s own backyard. California has come up with its own tax incentives — but it may be too little and too late. Meanwhile, thousands of ancillary jobs among location managers, equipment rental companies, etc., have been lost. Hundreds of property owners and businesses that once augmented their incomes by leasing out properties for filming are now hurting — and the city will feel all those lost jobs and reduced incomes where it hurts most — in its dwindling tax revenue base. Keeping on the good side of Chief Bratton is much too high a price to pay for undermining one of the most important industries and largest employers in the region.

  5. avatar Loveto says:

    Great argument there Jonathan: Let’s offer freebies like tax incentives to prevent a decline in our tax base. That’s like offering free water to improve our water supply.

    Were you paying attention when sports teams used “relocation blackmail” to get nearly every major city in America to build three new taxpayer-subsidized stadiums and arenas, for the benefit of a small number of their ultra-rich owners?

    While I think using retired cops for traffic duty at locations is pretty smart, I wouldn’t go much further to pander to a for-profit industry that will ALWAYS have a less expensive option than California. And this relocation blackmail is not unique to sports and filmmakers either.

    Once you get addicted to skewing your tax policies to the lowest-priced competitor, whether that be Deluth or Waco, you have started the quick slide into fiscal oblivion. Accept it people…it costs more to do business in California. But it is a hell of a nice place to live.

    We will never be on par with Detroit or New York, and nor should we want to.

  6. avatar Charles says:

    This LAPD blog is just another example of bloggers not checking facts and publishing quotes from people who have no credibility and who have been widely discredited in the professional film world.

    Another example of blogs as simply diarrhea of the key board.

    By the way, movie officers are not hired for set security. In addition there is no “Feud” as characterized in the article. There is discussion and debate. There are so many articles in Calbuzz that demonstrate that the writer has little to no understanding of the subject.

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