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Don’t Let NYC Destroy Local DIY Filmmaking

Don't Let NYC Destroy Local DIY Filmmaking

Filmmaker Jem Cohen (“Chain”) sent an email around this morning, alerting friends to the fact that the New York Mayor’s Office of Theater, Film, and Broadcasting wants to severely restrict the ability of amateur photographers and filmmakers to operate in New York City. The proposed rules include requiring any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour (including setup and breakdown time) to get a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance.

This completely goes against the creative process for Cohen and many others. As he writes, “Being a street photographer often means standing in a random location and waiting: for the right activity, the right light, the break in the traffic; the countless other unpredictable factors that need to fall into place to make a shot worthwhile… “

“The fact is that we simply CANNOT predict where, when, and how long we are going to film or photograph; we CANNOT afford expensive liability insurance policies; we occasionally NEED to work with other people or to use tripods to support our gear. (The regulations would, for example, effectively rule out a great deal of time-lapse photography which depends on tripods and cannot possibly be done with time limitations of 10 to 30 minutes, as well as the use of large format still cameras and long lenses).”

If the New York Mayor’s Office of Film and TV really cares about New York as a vital indie filmmaking center, they need to stop putting in effect procedures that help Hollywood productions and cripple the low-budget mavens that once made this city the artistic capital of the world.

Furthermore, as Cohen writes, new laws would not only hamper creativity but increase police harrassment. “If these regulations go through, it would invite if not require police to harass or shut down both professional artists and amateurs,” he writes.

Cohen continues: “I believe that we must see the proposed regulations not only as a blow against New York as a city that welcomes and inspires art-making (and historical documentation), but as part of a continuum of broader attacks against civil liberties and free expression.”

To voice your concerns about the proposed laws, write letters and make calls to:

Julianne Cho
Associate Commissioner
Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting
1697 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
ph: 212.489.6710
fax: 212.307.6237

You may also wish to contact the Mayor’s office. The office is accepting public feedback until August 3, and the rules could go into effect this summer.

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Dawn Scibilia

I cannot believe what I’ve just read! I recently made a wonderful documentary about NYC. I shot with the Sony TRV900, with only one additional person, and we shot all over the city. We had no budget but our idea and our passion for the city attracted numerous A-List movie stars and writers who are in the film. We premiered at the Walter Reade, screened at BAM, received a great review in the New York Sun, won the best documentary award in Boston. We felt it was easier to make the film than to overcome the challenges of getting financing. If this had been in effect, “Home” would not have been made. What’s going on? Did the city recently get sued because someone tripped over a tripod? What is their reasoning? Is NYC purposely trying to drive its artists away? I can’t help but feel that way. The voices in “Home” speak of a city in which, more than in any other place, anyone can achieve anything if they merely set their mind to it. Still true I believe. NYC can’t patrol EVERY corner of this city!!! Financing or no financing, I’ll make my next film on the streets of NYC, my home. Or maybe I should move to Boston….
Dawn Scibilia

Sean Flynn

This is obscene. Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Anthony. It might also be easier for some people to submit objections via the online contact form:


Similar problem happened in Silver Spring, MD (home of SilverDocs) recently; developer vs. photographers in a mix private & public $s developed open air shopping mall/street. Photographers won there. Post about it here:

The proposed new rules in NYC probably restricts free speech and other basic rights guaranteed by the constitution/bill of rights – interested folks should look into it from that angle.

Photographers having to get permission to take pictures in public space does not sound right.

Does NYC hate photographers & photography? Not a good thing for the city.

– Sujewa

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