Battle Scenes


It’s not exactly the War of the Roses, but in Veda Weisman’s eyes it’s no less a battle for the heart and soul of her once-serene little corner of Pacific Palisades.

For the last two weeks, Weisman and a handful of residents have waged a sometimes covert war of wills against perhaps the most imposing army any neighborhood could face: one with huge trucks, endless scores of soldiers, commanders in fancy hats and enough money to operate the most sophisticated of battle machines.

A Hollywood film crew.

In one volley, an angry Weisman sent crew members scrambling when she turned on her home alarm system during a shooting sequence of the film “Reasonable Doubt,” starring Melanie Griffith, which is being filmed next door to Weisman’s home overlooking the ocean.


She says it was the only way to reach movie-makers who had moved a lumbering coffee truck to the foot of her driveway and posted several nosy guards nearby.

“It was a small victory, but I felt so good, so empowered,” she said. “I just thought they were bullying me. So I fought back.”

On any given day in Los Angeles, about 250 movie crews are on the streets, a testament to local government’s desire to promote filmmaking in Hollywood’s backyard. But as officials celebrate what they describe as a $20-billion cash influx brought by filmmakers to the local economy, residents like Weisman say that it’s truly hell fighting a trench war against the powerful movie moguls.

The nonprofit Entertainment Industry Development Corp., which last year issued permits for 500 feature-length films to be shot in Los Angeles County, hears complaints about profanity on T-shirts worn by film crews, shouting best boys, scantily-clad women and vulgar language on the set. The organization’s president, Cody Cluff, said there have been stories ranging from a fake explosion people believed was a plane crash to crews “urinating in bushes, screaming at my daughter and looking in my backyard.”

“Filming a movie is like taking a manufacturing operation and moving it right into a neighborhood,” Cluff said. “It’s a full-time job to keep decorum on the streets.”

Weisman and others say that for 18 days--including 10 days of filming--Hollywood is turning their backyard into a film studio back lot.


The crew of “Reasonable Doubt,” which is being made by Largo Entertainment, has received a special permit to film overnight and into the daylight hours. The crew’s two dozen lumbering semi-trucks, perched near the precarious ocean cliffs, never leave.

“They come in and they take over your neighborhood and push you around,” Weisman said. “Then they expect you to thank them. You’re supposed to be honored these beautiful people deign to pick your neighborhood to make their art. Well, we’re not impressed.”

For their part, members of the location crew have made several savvy public relations moves. One involved a special visit by Griffith to another homeowner to apologize for the noise and disruption.

Film shoots aren’t just about noise. In Pacific Palisades, neighbors claim filmmakers bamboozled county parks officials to let them locate heavy trucks on cliffs so sensitive that only local traffic is normally allowed there.

But Kathleen Chan, an official from the Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department, denied that her office gave Hollywood any special consideration.

“They came in and presented a reasonable plan,” she said. “And we respect reasonable people with reasonable plans.”


Many residents mad about the movies call City Hall for answers. But officials say there is little they can do to stop a film shoot once a permit is issued by the Entertainment Industry Development Corp.

Rita Suwanich, a deputy to Councilman Marvin Braude, said her office has received complaints about the Pacific Palisades film crew. “But we’ve got 14 movie crews today alone filming in the councilman’s district,” she said. “This is par for the course.”

The industry development corporation, founded in 1995 in a merger of the old city and county film offices, has succeeded in drawing more filmmakers. The number of film shoots in Los Angeles County soared nearly 30% in the last year. In 1996, there were 43,000 days of local filming, up from 33,000 in 1995.

The corporation has also worked to solve the concerns of neighborhoods. In doing so, it runs into the complaints of people like Albert Androsky, another resident of Weisman’s neighborhood. While he was talking to his wife recently on their property, Androsky said, one crew member turned and scolded the couple, saying “Shhhhhhhhhhh.”

“Hey,” he said. “This is my neighborhood, not theirs.”

Film location manager John Panzarella said his project has been the victim of bad publicity by a few disgruntled neighbors.

Panzarella said his company received the necessary permits to film at the site and has made great efforts to be a good neighbor during the short time it is there.


And as for shushing any residents, Panzarella is resolute.

“This has become a battle of wills with this neighbor and some others,” he said. “First, he mows his lawn. Then he pulls out his weed-whacker. And after he’s whacked everything that could be whacked, he takes out his electric sander.

“After awhile, enough is enough. We go ask people to cooperate.”

Often, he said, the neighborhood film wars turn wacky.

“We had one shoot where this guy blasts his stereo to ruin a scene,” he said. “Little does he know we’re shooting without sound and soon half the crew is dancing on the set.”

Industry development corporation head Cluff said movie-makers must abide by strict guidelines before filming, rules that in some cases include petitioning affected neighborhoods for signatures of permission.

“We listen to everyone,” he said. “But if somebody lives a mile away from the shoot and opposes it just because they hate film companies, that’s not as valid as a next-door neighbor who may be kept awake by floodlights or a humming generator.”

One irony, Cluff said, is the curious breed of Los Angeles resident who usually makes the most noise about filmmaking in their backyards: People in the film business.

“A good percentage come from people who make their living in the entertainment industry,” he said. “And some of them make a lot of noise. But we try to be even-handed.”


Although filming ends Friday, many in Pacific Palisades are still mad about the movies.

Weisman made her point when she turned on her home alarm, ignoring the crew members’ knocks. Finally answering the door, she told them, “Oh really? Did my alarm go off?”

A few days later, she signed a contract to be paid $200 a day in consolation fees. “The money is nice,” she said. “But how can you put a price on privacy?”