Groups weigh whether to roll camera or call cut in La Cañada

When the movie "Jersey Boys" opened in theaters late last month, viewers watched as music phenom Frankie Valli was brought to life on screen.

But when Marybeth Rehman-Dittu thinks of the Warner Bros. production, all she remembers is the beeping of trucks backing up, paths cut by film crews tramping through neighbors' lawns and the interminable traffic caused by the movie shoot.

"When you get a crew of 200 people, that's a lot of noise," she said, speaking of past grievances that have piled up in the last decade or more as crews shoot in local homes. "These are small, but when it adds up, it interferes with our lives."

Rehman-Dittu is one of a small group of homeowners living on or near Commonwealth Avenue in the Flintridge area — a hot spot in town for film productions — who say they're fed up with the laxity shown toward production companies by the city's film ordinance.

For nearly a year, working collectively as the La Cañada Neighbors for Fair Filming (LCNFFF), the Commonwealth residents have worked with the city's Public Safety Commission to revise rules regarding filming in city limits.

The procedures to which production companies are held haven't been updated since 1995, and now parties both in favor and against filming want rules that better consider their opposing perspectives.

That tug of war will come to a head in August, when the commission meets to finalize the new language before sending it to City Council in September.

Navigating competing interests has complicated things, said Kevin Chun, the city's administrative services director who's led the effort.

"It's a fairly contentious issue with a lot of different interests and a lot of different opinions from different sides," Chun said. "We tried to write the draft ordinance in a manner that was fair for all those involved as much as possible."

The neighborhood group's chief interests include placing a cap on the number of days each year a particular property can host productions, developing a means of controlling car traffic and making sure neighbors are notified in advance of a filming event.

"We have nothing against our neighbors — they're just doing what the city is allowing them to do. But at what point does it stop being a residential property and start becoming a business?" Rehman-Dittu said.

On the other side of the argument are pro-filming homeowners as well as production companies and people and businesses who similarly benefit from productions coming into town.

Russ Fega owns the company Home Shoot Home, which brokers productions between homeowners and companies interested in shooting in local communities.

He represents about 45 La Cañada homeowners, but said the city has a terrible reputation in the film industry for its high permit costs and over-the-top mandates.

"Nobody wants to shoot in La Cañada anymore," said Fega, a former film location manager. "People are avoiding it — it's terrible."

Fega was hoping to see the ordinance loosen up through the revision process, and attended several Public Safety Commission meetings. He said he was disappointed that La Cañada Neighbors for Fair Filming pulled the rules in the other direction.

"The film ordinance revisions have been commandeered by a small group of citizens who don't represent the whole community. I think it's grossly unfair," Fega said.

Chun said he hoped to finalize the new revisions at the Commission's Aug. 25 meeting and submit them to Council for a final vote in September.

"This process has gone on for some time now, and we'd like to get it to the finish line and get it to the City Council," Chun said.

For more information on the city's film ordinance, visit or call (818) 790-8880.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World