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An Open Letter to NYC’s Mayors Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting…

An Open Letter to NYC's Mayors Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting...

heartnySM.jpgI invite indieWIRE members and readers of this blog to consider the following open letter to NYC’s Mayors Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting (MOFTB), regarding the current open comment period for feedback to film permit rules proposed on May 25, 2007.

I will be emailing this letter to my contact at the MOFTB and encourage readers to post comments, feedback or suggested changes to the proposed rules. At the end of the week, when the comment period ends, I will also email these comments to organization for their consideration.

The full text of the letter follows.

Julianne Cho
Associate Commissioner
Communications and Business Development
NYC Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting
1697 Broadway, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10019

Good Morning Julianne,

First, thank you for your responsiveness over the past few weeks regarding indieWIRE’s questions surrounding the MOFTB’s proposed Film Permit Rules. We appreciate your help with our coverage and as you know, indieWIRE’s article, written by Agnes Varnum, was published today.

As I mentioned to you on Monday, I have had numerous personal conversations with filmmakers and others active in New York’s independent film community over the past few days. As such, I would like to share a few thoughts before the public comment period concludes this Friday, August 3rd.

Putting aside any discussion about whether the MOFTB should be regulating such a wide array of filming and photography in the City of New York, in short, the proposed new rules seem overly restrictive. As you know, the wider availability of digital filmmaking and photography equipment coupled with the rapid growth of exhibition outlets at film festivals and through online sources over the past decade has led to ever-increasing numbers of established, emerging and amateur makers, many of whom adopt D.I.Y. (do it yourself) techniques and approaches. It is my view that these proposed film permit rules would stifle such activity.

A significant concern is the fact that New York’s independent filmmaking community was apparently not consulted when these proposed new rules were developed. Many people were unaware of the situation until emails and blog postings brought it to our attention and only now, days before the end of the public comment phase, are filmmakers here in the city coming to grips with the rammifications of these proposed permit rules.

In the indieWIRE article, you indicate that one of the options available to the MOFTB as it moves to the next step in the process is creating a new draft of rules and holding a new comment period and hearing. Based on my conversations with others in the community, I personally hope that the MOFTB will pursue this option so that concerned filmmakers and others have an adequate opportunity to be a productive part of the process. As I mentioned during our phone call on Monday night, your working with the IFP to gain further insight is a big step in the right direction and underscores your openness to working with New York’s filmmaking community.

I am also posting this email message on my personal blog in the hopes that it will lead to concrete suggestions, legitimate proposals or specific ideas that might be valuable to the MOFTB as it considers these proposed rules in view of any comments. I will send you another email at the end of the week with that feedback and we will, of course, continue to report on this issue in indieWIRE.

Best regards,

Eugene Hernandez
Editor-in-Chief & Co-Founder

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I’ve weighed in with my thoughts on the proposed permit rules on my blog:

I would also like to add that I feel the NYC film office is going about it the wrong way in determining what should be classified as a “film production” versus a simple “shoot.” Just because someone is using a camera in public space does not mean that it should be regulated.

Instead of focusing on “cameras” and “time limits” they should instead compile a very specific list of what would constitute a film shoot that needs to be regulated by the city, such as:

-Aside from a camera and tripod, is film equipment present, such as such as c-stands, camera dollies, flags, track, etc.? Are huge trucks being used to offload equipment? Are generators being used?

-Crew wise, is the crew large enough to be obstructing public use of sidewalks or any other public space where pedestrians are being blocked or severely inconvienced? are there grip or gaffers present?

-Is the production impacting in a way that would not be covered under other basic laws in NYC that already cover obstruction of sidewalks and any other public disruptions/disturbances?

Questions like these should be drawn up and used to determine accurately whether a film shoot requires a permit and liability insurance.

The simple camera and time limit rule is far, far too narrow in scope to possibly capture the wide range of amateur and low-budget, small shoots that take place in NYC every day.

I would encourage the MOFTB to delay making a decision on revising the permit rules and instead convene a meeting with film producers and filmmakers who have shot in NYC, ranging from low budget, DIY ( i.e. the filmmakers behind FOUR EYED MONSTERS) and more seasoned filmmakers to draw up a very specific list of YES or NO questions that can be asked of anyone to determine whether they need a permit or not.

In this way, the permit rules can be applied when they are most needed and also not waste the MOFTB’s resources on bringing big film productions into the city that provide jobs for thousands of NYC residents and also continue to validate NYC as one of the best cities to shoot in in the world.

best regards,

James Israel
(indieWIRE, filmmaker)

Henry Simonds


The people who are going to be hurt most be this are this struggling creatives who set out every day to celebrate the city and its vibrancy. Whether a small group of amateur filmmakers or a solo photgrapher, they will ultimately suffer from a misunderstanding of the law and a prejudice by city representatives. I can imagine a scenario in which a photographer is strong armed for taking a long exposure photographer of the city skyline at dusk. This is a totally misguided set of restrictions. For a city that encourages and thrives on the arts, this motion would do nothing more than stiffle the creativiity and cultural energy that individual artists breath into the city’s civic live.
I hope that this can be stopped and beg that you forward my comments to the Mayor’s office along with your colleagues.


Henry Simonds

Sujewa Ekanayake

Dear Ms. Cho,

It seems that the proper intent of the new MOFTB rules would be to regulate large budget commercial filmmaking activity. However, the proposed rules, as they stand now, severly restrict ordinary citizen’s free speech conduted through the mediums of film, video & photography, & thus would invite legal challenges and lawsuits. If the MOFTB is interested in refining its policies towards big budget (a budget level could be identified in the rules to clarify what big budget is – over $250,000, over a million $s, etc.) filmmaking, the rules can specifically mention that and should specifically mention that amature & low budget/”no-budget” filmmaking, video making & photgraphy are excluded from the permit & insurance requirements of the rules. Otherwise the rules, as they stand now, invite harrasment of millions of tourists, thousands of film students, also many amature & low budget filmmakers from the police and other law enforcement agencies. The rules also invite, as I mentioned earlier, legal action against, and a ton of negative press for the office of the Mayor of New York. Beyond the legal and financial and publicity drawbacks to current proposed rules, the MOFTB will be putting the economic future of the New York based film industry at risk by making it difficult for new filmmakers to refine their skills through low budget filmmaking.

As a visitor to New York City and a fan of New York City filmmaking (an important section of the nation’s film heritage has come from low budget filmmaking and careers started in New York; that of John Cassavetes, Andy Warhol, Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, to name just 4 world renowned filmmakers who got their start making low budget movies on the streets of New York) I sincerely hope that the permit rules as proposed do not become law but rather a more refined set of rules are adopted; a set of rules that protects the ability of the ordinary citizen to celebrate New York through film, video & photography and encourages aspiring filmmakers (future engines of positive publicity & wealth/economic activity for the city) to pursue low budget filmmaking without fear of police harrasment.

Thank you.


Sujewa Ekanayake
Visitor to & big fan of New York City

mark Rabinowitz

Good for you, Eug! I’m working on one, too. Let’s have at them!

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