by Dennis Holt
BROOKLYN — A few years ago, my family almost inherited a large movie searchlight.
There was an interior shoot of some kind in the Brooklyn Inn at the corner of Bergen and Hoyt streets, and the producers needed to put a big light in our front parlor pointed in direction of the inn. We never understood why, but we got $50 for the trouble.
The film company was scheduled to remove the light around 9 a.m. the next day. The group forgot about the light, there was no one in sight, and what were we going to with something as impractical as this?
I had visions of spending hours on the phone talking to the City Hall people involved, but the film company, rather red-faced, showed up later to claim their big toy.
(The Brooklyn Inn is a frequent film or TV commercial set. If you’ve ever been inside, you know why: It’s a classic old saloon.)
Reading Zach Campbell’s story in Wednesday’s Eagle about all the film shoots throughout Brooklyn Heights and the downtown area in recent days — five shoots seem to be going on all at the same time — I remembered the seachlight we almost had.
I also am more than aware that film shoots produce crankiness and carping in the communities and not just about the large number of precious parking spaces lost. The trucks overwhelm the narrow streets that dominate the brownstone neighborhoods, there’s a lot of noise and hubbub and seldom does anyone see a real movie star. Filming can be a pain in the everywhere.
Most people are also aware that the city financially benefits from all the film shooting — most estimate about $5 billion annually. That’s nice change.
I have long thought, and propose it now in this space, that the city ought to share this loot with the communities who experience the hardships. Formulas can be worked out about the levels of inconvenience — a four-hour shoot is worth something, a three-day shoot much more.
But how should the city compensate the neighborhoods? Not all communities have civic associations like the Brooklyn Heights Association, and sometimes shoots for one movie take place in more than one neighborhood.
One idea is to create a program and methodology with the community district offices — the headquarters of the various community boards. The community boards are always thinly funded and never really have money to do more than the mere basics.
The community boards could decide themselves what to do with funds obtained. The funds could be used for social events, donations to schools and local charitable groups and the like.
A process of community compensation could go far to remove the sting of film shoots on our streets and sidewalks. There is no reason something like this can’t be adapted.
Who will make the first move?