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Industry Report: Focus: North America

New York film office to charge for filming on city streets


- Producers of movies, TV commercials and even student films may now have to pony up $300 for the right to film on city streets.

New York has always prided itself on granting largely free access to streets, parks and other city-owned locations for TV and film productions but steep budget cuts have forced the city film office to find new sources of revenue.

"This is the first time we've introduced a fee for any of our services," said Julianne Cho, Associate Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting. "We provide a one-stop shop for productions, and we expect that to continue."

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The proposed permit application fee is subject to a 30-day comment period and a public hearing before it could take effect.

It would be paid just once by a movie - whether it's a blockbuster or a low-budget film and regardless of how many days it shoots in the city. TV shows would pay one fee per season.

"I doubt it would be any kind of detriment to a high-budget feature or a TV series," said John Johnston, who heads the New York Production Alliance, a network of unions and industry groups. "However, for an independent film or music video ... every dollar counts. It could be a bigger obstacle for them."

The fee would not apply to films that use hand-held equipment and don't take up much space. Films that can prove a financial hardship would be exempt.

Cho said she hopes the fee will cover the city's costs for processing permit applications and generate enough money to cover the $155,000 the office has to trim from its $2 million budget this year.

Mayor Bloomberg last month ordered most city agencies to indentify ways to slash 7.2% of their budgets in anticipation of Albany's budget woes leading to less money for the city.

The fee would come on top of a new $3,200 fee that the Department of Citywide Administrative Services started charging last fall to film inside city buildings.

The city will continue to provide other services to films for free, including two police officers to help with street closures and other issues.

It's a much better deal than elsewhere, Johnston said.

"You get a better buy in New York than you get in LA, that's for sure, or a lot of other cities," Johnston said. "Any request to film in New York is usually a big one. It involves shutting down a street or Times Square with nobody in it ... They provide a high level of service. We want them to continue."


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