Neighborhood's head pounds from production
EmptyThe entire world loves Will Smith, everybody except Dresden Graham. The 65-year-old retiree has waged a war against Smith's latest film, the drama "Seven Pounds," which is shooting in her Hollywood Sunset Square neighborhood.
The production is based at a house on Sierra Bonita, between Hollywood and Sunset boulevards, just three houses up from Graham's home, where she has lived since the mid-'80s. Trucks line the street, crews are busy setting up and striking down, generators hum, and security and police officers patrol the area.
Graham, who had put signs in her yard and on her house that read "Will Smith, Go Film at Your Mansions" and "Put Potty Toilets Next to Your Neighbor's House," has a litany of complaints. She doesn't like the fume-spewing trucks parked running in front of her house, where the production has placed portable toilets. She's not that keen on the planned night shoot that will go to 3 a.m., either, because it calls for bright lights, rain machines and Great Danes.
"We had no choice," she says. "The neighborhood had no choice."
But her biggest complaint has been with FilmL.A., the nonprofit organization that acts as a liaison for the city, its residences and film companies.
Graham notes, accurately, that FilmL.A. gets funding through permits -- the more it issues, the more revenue it generates. And "Pounds" is the fifth production in six weeks to occupy a two-block area around her home.
FilmL.A. says the house where "Pounds" is filming has been used on only four shoots in the past year. It doesn't share Graham's view that the area has played host to too many productions.
Residents are grumbling, though, even though many work in the entertainment industry and are reluctant to speak out against a big star like Smith, the production companies (Overbrook and Escape Artists) and a studio (Columbia). They complained about noise and the loss of parking spaces, which force certain apartment residents to park at a nearby church and take a shuttle bus to their building.
"We are completely on board with filming on our streets, but this is too much," says Amy Aquino, a member of the neighborhood association who also is on the committee that oversees film shoots.
Aquino, a working actress who has appeared on shows like "ER," understands the need to film in Los Angeles and wants to keep shoots in the city, but she also wants a little more respect for residents.
"You can put up with a lot for a day or two but not for two weeks," she says.
By most accounts, the production has done things by the book: securing permits, conducting a survey to get the required resident signatures for night shoots and also paying many residents. It even donated $5,000 to the neighborhood association.
That mattered little to Graham, who says that the production tried to negotiate with her: "I told them, 'Here's what I have in mind: You give me what you're giving (the owner of the house being used) because when you're filming at her house, you're filming in my house.' "
FilmL.A. admits that some residents initially resisted the shoot but that it has mitigated many concerns. "Sometimes we can't make everybody happy," spokesman Todd Lindgren says. "We have done a good job."
Indeed, a happy ending for Graham materialized as the "Pounds" shoot has proceeded -- she recently reached an agreement with the production company, the terms of which she did not disclose.
"It's not about the money," she says. "It's about having the neighborhood stand up and say, 'This is too much.' "
Now she's hoping that once "Pounds" leaves, the street will be given a reprieve and ruled off-limits for filming for at least a year.