Ordinance keeps film crews out of the city
Of the relatively few movies shot in La Cañada in 2011, half were at Descanso Gardens.
A caravan of production vehicles line up in the parking lot at Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge for the filming of a McDonald's commercial. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / June 11, 2012)
In 2011 La Cañada Flintridge raised $19,662 in revenue from 43 film permits, about 85% less than South Pasadena. Roughly half of the shoots, including a McDonald's commercial filmed earlier this month, take place at Descanso Gardens.
The city's film ordinance, which was put in place in 1995, contains more stringent restrictions than many other nearby cities, as well. Filming is allowed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and homeowners are limited to four permits per year.
The city also requires that all affected neighbors be notified of filming before a permit is approved. Film location scouts say it just is not worth the trouble to come to town.
“I kind of avoid La Cañada, not so much because of the people, [and] it's got great places, but because of the permit turnaround,” said Flint Maloney, a location scout for 25 years. “It's almost two weeks for permitting. It's normally a lot less time than that [elsewhere].”
Barbara Miller, a location scout since 1983, said, “There are some wonderful locations, especially up in the residential area around Woodleigh [Street] and Berkshire [Avenue]. But it tends to be expensive, and the permit takes a little bit longer than some, which can be an issue for commercials because we have such quick turnaround.”
City leaders are more focused on limiting the impacts of filming — street closures, noise, the public space film crews sometimes require — than on maximizing revenue, city analyst Carl Alameda said.
“Our top priority on filming is protection of our residents from disturbance,” Alameda said. “In many cities that's not the case. Many cities view it as an economic development tool.”
Descanso Gardens hosted 22 film and photo shoots in 2011.
Spokeswoman Jill Mamey said the grounds have served as sets for the soap opera “All My Children,” the drama “Grey's Anatomy,” and police procedurals “NCIS,” “NCIS: LA” and “The Closer.”
Mamey said Descanso's most popular locations include the Rose Garden, Oak Forest and Japanese Garden.
But Descanso is about the only place in town that is commercial-camera-friendly.
Location scout Rob Dohan, who is working on the ABC series “Jane By Design” in Pasadena, said he's stopped looking in La Cañada.
“[The permitting process] has been so restrictive that I make like that city doesn't exist,” he said.