Officials warn against community burnout


It's an affliction that can strike anywhere in the world, from your own backyard to the streets of London to Timbuktu: location burnout. It occurs when numerous films use the same location over and over and over again, leaving the audience wondering, "Haven't I seen this place before?"

But a more severe case of location burnout occurs in the form of community backlash, when residents and municipalities are fed up with trucks coming, loud generators and night shoots. It also can occur in the form of a Los Angeles Times editorial slamming "Live Free or Die Hard" for planning road closures near LAX for the next two weeks, a busy time leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Location burnout ever can occur after just one incident. "It can be the first time a location has filming, and it's poorly handled and poorly planned, and you get a location contact that says, 'You know, this isn't worth it, I don't want anything to do with it,' " says Suzy Kellett of the Washington State Film Office.

Because the causes and concerns are so varied, solutions are as well, but there are some general ones. One is a simple thank you. "You can never forget to say thanks to your state and the city and your community," Kellett says. "Because without the cooperation and support of individuals and communities, we could never do this work at all."

After one year of particularly heavy filming, the city of Chicago took out a billboard saying, "Thank you for the lights, camera, and all that action." Toronto did the same one summer when film fatigue was setting in and residents were grumbling.

The producers of the latest Coen brothers movie, "No Country for Old Men," took out a huge ad in the Las Vegas, N.M., paper to say thanks, citing all the businesses that had been involved. "It was a really nice gesture, and it meant a lot to people," New Mexico Film Office's Lisa Strout says.

It also helps to have members of the film commission visible on set during high-impact shoots in case problems arise. Jeff Peel of the Miami-Dade County Office of Film & Entertainment spent many nights on the set of "Miami Vice" last year when production closed highways.

Most agree that being proactive is the best way to avoid burnout, which means letting people know plans in advance. The makers of "Deja Vu" had the tricky job of shooting a movie in New Orleans during its reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina. "They had a press conference where they talked about the sensitivities about shooting in the Ninth Ward, what they would be doing, that they wouldn't impede on the rebound of people rebuilding their lives," recalls Alex Schott of the Louisiana Governor's Office of Film and Television Development.

The bottom line is that residents mustn't feel that they have been burned. Strout says New Mexico has a law in its tax incentives that any rebate can be held up until all unpaid bills are squared away. "Even if it's 100 bucks to the zoo, they're not going to want the next person to be there because it will have left a bad taste in their mouths. Most of these things get resolved, but you need to have a handle on it."

Last month, Vancouver created a film task force that will bring together city staff, film commissions, the directors guild, location managers and residents in a city that has been a hot spot for more than a decade. Susan Croome of the British Columbia Film Commission says the task force's creation wasn't the result of burnout but instead was designed to prevent it.

"Because without locations, we're all in trouble," she says.