Printer Friendly

FILM PRODUCER'S PASADENA EXPERIENCE LESS THAN ROSY.

Byline: John Horn Associated Press

Producer Steve Nicolaides has occupied an 11th century castle, the Minneapolis Metrodome and an entire Oregon town making movies. Those logistical nightmares are dwarfed by the hardship he suffered trying to shoot a children's film in his hometown.

Following an occasionally ugly campaign launched by one of Pasadena's wealthiest neighborhoods, Nicolaides was forced recently to relocate the Rene Russo film ``Buddy'' to a house near downtown Los Angeles.

The story behind ``Buddy's'' exodus provides an uncommon look into the often violent collision between suburbia and Hollywood - Southern California's largest employer.

Sick of the noise and chaos a film inevitably brings to otherwise quiet residential lanes, local homeowners are revolting against movie companies in increasingly larger numbers.

In the case of ``Buddy,'' the not-in-my-backyard protest wasn't always pretty.

Before he abandoned the Pasadena estate he had rented to film his movie, Nicolaides dodged a $35,000 payoff demand, landed in the middle of an anti-Asian backlash and watched in shock as some rich residents working in and around the film business told one of their very own to get lost.

``I love Pasadena, and it was my dream to bring a movie here,'' says Nicolaides, a 10-year Pasadena resident whose credits include ``Stand by Me,'' ``When Harry Met Sally . . .'' and ``A Few Good Men.'' ``But the world has gone mad.''

Residents are thrilled the movie won't be coming to town: No trucks pulling up the street before dawn, no generators throttling past midnight.

``I have signed off on every filming request that has come down the pike,'' says Thomas Buckley, whose house borders the proposed ``Buddy'' location. ``But if they had got this production in there, (Hollywood location scouts) would promote the house as a (full-time) film location, pure and simple.''

A furious Nicolaides says the showdown has cost the film more than $400,000. His lawyers are considering suing the city of Pasadena, which Nicolaides says granted - and then retracted - a critical filming permit.

Protests of location filming are usually limited to isolated residents insisting on a wad of cash to get out of the way. In the case of ``Buddy,'' several detractors hired a lawyer, petitioned residents and lobbied a city councilman.

If people don't take these types of steps, says Pasadena resident Kenneth Patton, ``Pretty soon our neighborhood will turn into a movie studio.''

Kaki Allan, another resident whose home sits near the proposed ``Buddy'' site, says movie shoots ruin the peace and safety that makes Pasadena so attractive. ``It's like being behind a diesel bus,'' she says.

``Buddy'' is a $24 million film from Jim Henson Pictures, the company named after the late Muppets creator. Set in the 1920s, the movie follows the true story of Gertrude Lintz, a socialite who raised exotic animals, including a gorilla she treated as a son.

Nicolaides says he was pushed to film the movie in North Carolina or Canada, where anti-union labor laws lower production costs. ``But I fought very hard to keep the production in town,'' he says.

Local productions, in addition to being more convenient for cast and crew, pump thousands of dollars in taxes and fees into the economy. Pasadena stood to make more than $15,000 in permit fees alone from ``Buddy.''

For much of the ``Buddy'' filming, Nicolaides and his colleagues selected a three-acre Pasadena mansion on Arden Road. The estate, in disrepair following a 1994 sale to an absent Asian businessman, has been used frequently for movies, TV shows and commercials.

Nicolaides applied for and was granted a permit and he moved his production office to Pasadena and began renovating the house.

Pasadena's film office typically writes permits limiting filming in one location to six consecutive days or 24 days in a year. The city gave the ``Buddy'' filmmakers special permission to build sets and film for several months - despite angry objections from neighbors living on and near Arden Road.

The city insisted on several steps to reduce noise, but filming would regularly run past midnight. The residents said daytime filming for even a day is disruptive, and that the noise mitigations were merely cosmetic.

Then the dispute got ugly.

According to a transcript of the June permit hearing, a resident accused Pasadena film liaison Ariel Penn of taking a bribe to grant the permit, which she vehemently denied.

An anonymous letter sent to the board of zoning appeals urged the city to listen to its citizens, ``not . . . an Oriental who wants to make money on his house'' by renting it to filmmakers.

At an appeals session in July, Nicolaides said that Arden resident Sheldon Friedman demanded a $35,000 payment ``to sell out his neighbors'' and drop his opposition. Friedman, who did not return a telephone call, did not deny the figure at the appeals session.

Due to a procedural error, the city was unable to vote immediately on the appeal. By the time a vote is rendered, Nicolaides says it will be too late anyway, so he abandoned Arden Road.

With the ``Buddy'' permit in limbo, the state dispatched the film commissioner for the city of Los Angeles to argue on the movie's behalf. ``This is a potentially serious state issue,'' Patty Achuletta told city officials. ``It has big ramifications.''

In 1993, Hermosa Beach residents successfully sued the makers of ``Beverly Hills, 90210'' because the TV show's filming there was too disruptive. Achuletta said the Hermosa Beach and Pasadena controversies may steer filmmakers - and hundreds of millions of dollars - away from their Southern California home, potentially out of the state.

Complaints over location filming are concentrated in - but not limited to - Southern California.

New Yorkers were displeased when Barbra Streisand's ``The Mirror Has Two Faces'' brought a crew of 110 into an Upper West Side neighborhood this spring. Neighbors were given more than 50 soundproof blankets and for the truly inconsolable, the producers put more than a dozen residents in swank hotels.

In New Canaan, Conn., residents complained that the coming movie ``The Ice Storm'' not only depicted their town unfavorably but also jammed downtown traffic, tied up the library and took most of the good parking spaces. To soothe feelings, the movie donated $20,000 to the town.

John Morrisey, the lawyer for some of the Pasadena residents, says, ``It's indisputable that the movie industry and filming has that role in the economy. But there are zoning rules, and they are there for a reason.''

Nicolaides says it is bitterly ironic that two of ``Buddy's'' biggest opponents have close ties to Hollywood.

Buckley serves as the film liaison for downtown's Union Station. Mary Lou Loper, another opponent, writes about the Hollywood social scene for the Los Angeles Times and is married to the former president of the local public television station.

Says Buckley: ``I'm in a very awkward position. But (the movie) literally would have been in my back yard.''
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 28, 1996
Words:1144
Previous Article:BOOK REVIVES PRAISE FOR SEA RANCH HOMES : 1960S PROJECT CALLED AN ECOLOGICAL `UTOPIA'.
Next Article:AIRBORNE PARTICLES PACK PUNCH : EXPERTS PROVIDE TIPS TO DEFEND AGAINST HAZARDOUS SMOG IN RIVERSIDE COUNTY.


Related Articles
BRIEFLY FILMING FEES TO BE RETURNED TO FOREST.
BRIEFLY : TRUCK DRIVER DIES AFTER HITTING POLE.
LOANER TO LAND IN L.A.? : CHARGERS MIGHT PLAY UP NORTH TEMPORARILY.
HOLLYWOOD'S HOT : FILM PRODUCTION RETURNS TO L.A.
BIZWATCH : MARKETS.
TAKE 5: PARTY LINES: EMMY WINNERS PARTY WITH PIZAZZ (AND PIZZA).
Sundance Film Festival. (Festival Wraps).
BRIEFLY WEATHER CLOUDY, LESS DAMP TODAY.
'SHREK' MUSICAL PLANNED.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters