N.Y. unveils new film permit proposal


NEW YORK -- The New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting announced its redrafted production permit and insurance rule proposal, four months after an outcry of protest over their original proposal led them back to the drawing board.

The new proposed permit would be required for a shoot if TV or film equipment or vehicles create an obstruction, but not for productions that only use hand-held cameras or tripods that don't cause an obstruction.

The new proposal, set to be published in the City Record on Tuesday, will only apply to those with handheld or tripod cameras or equipment who film in the street or take up a substantial part of the sidewalk.

"We're actually quite pleased on a number of levels," said New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman, whose organization filed a lawsuit on behalf of filmmaker Rakesh Sharma, which led to a settlement forcing the city to establish explicit guidelines. "This only addresses what's legitimate -- interference with the flow of traffic. We applaud the city for making these much-needed revisions."

In the new proposal, "equipment" is defined as film or video cameras, lights, sets and other materials, but doesn't include handheld devices or tripods. "Obstruction" is defined as one or more lanes of a street or walkway, or when production results in either less than eight feet or one-half the width of the sidewalk or passageway (whichever is greater) being available for pedestrians.

An optional permit would be available for hand-held cameras or tripods not causing obstruction, but would not (as in the controversial prior proposal) require liability insurance. NYPD-credentialed press photographers and school-insured student filmmakers would also not be affected by the new rules.

"My staff and I would like to thank the many organizations that have shared feedback and collaborated with the agency during the redrafting process, including the Independent Feature Project, Fractured Atlas, Creative Capital, The Moving Pictures Collective of NYC, and the International Center of Photography," said MOFTB commissioner Katherine Oliver.

Lieberman says the NYCLU "actively and aggressively" negotiated with Oliver and her colleagues when the revised proposal process was announced. She said the negotiations were successful, "but we were less successful in obtaining serious training for police and parks department trainees to respect First Amendment rules. This is only part of the battle -- the proof in the pudding is if the NYPD respects and follows the new rules. "

Public comment is now open for this current draft of the rule, with a hearing scheduled for Dec. 13.