Rebel Without a Cause, La La Land, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the Batman TV show — what do they all have in common? Our beloved Griffith Park. For decades scenes from many movies and TV shows have been filmed in the Park. Watching shows, films and commercials, we often recognize our favorite trail, mountain top, the Batman cave or the iconic Griffith Observatory featured in a scene.
Over the years, however, filming has also had a deleterious effect on the Park.
From 2014 to 2017, FoGP started collecting anecdotal observations of the increased level of filming in the Park. We noticed an increase in questionable site locations, and poor stewardship displayed in protecting the Park.
~ multiple big-rig vehicles, trucks, trailers, and cars in remote areas
~ filming and live music close to raptor nesting sites
~ crew members smoking in sensitive areas
~ newly restored areas of native plantings trampled
~ trails expanded causing erosion and drainage problems
~ removal of branches and damage to trees and flora
~ crew activity causing hazards for passive recreation
~ and much more!
We acknowledge that filming is a very important part of many Angeleno livelihoods (myself included!) and our intent was not to discourage filming. The directive from the Mayor’s Office is to encourage and keep film production in Los Angeles. However, it was obvious that the Park needed protecting and the institution of better guidelines could help safeguard its habitat, wildlife and visitor experience.
In March 2017 FoGP President Gerry Hans and I met with the Park Film Office, then-Griffith Park Superintendent Joe Salaices, and Film LA to discuss how we could improve the filming protocols in the Park
This proved to be a long but rewarding process!
We had follow-up meetings in 2018 with the Park Film Office and the Griffith Park Advisory Board (GPAB) met with the Film Office, Mayor’s Office, Teamsters and LAPD.
In February 2019, FoGP Volunteer Coordinator Laura Howe and I were also members of GPAB and we formed a GPAB ad hoc Filming Guidelines Committee together with Tracy James, Park Services; Park Film Office; Stefanie Smith, then-RAP Maintenance Supervisor and FoGP’s Gerry Hans.
Our ad hoc Committee worked diligently with RAP and the Park Film Office to create a better system. We approached this from several paths to establish better communication with film companies and create a win-win for both filming and the wildlife and ecosystems within Griffith Park.
Safeguarding habitat, protecting wildlife
Stefanie Smith and RAP Maintenance created a training protocol for the Film Monitors. This had an extremely beneficial effect. The protocol streamlined the selection of appropriate locations for specific film shoots and created better understanding by staff to know what is and isn’t appropriate.
The ad hoc committee worked on improving the film guidelines that currently exist. We met with the Park Film Office and others to help create protocols and practices so both the film office and film companies understand they are working within a natural area with sensitive wildlife. We also made recommendations for hiring a wildlife biologist to advise and make further determinations regarding the appropriateness of filming in certain locations at certain times of the year, light and noise issues, etc.
Then the committee created a map with highlighted areas for good filming locations and sensitive filming locations for internal use by the Film Office.
The size and scale of a film shoot has a dramatic effect on the impact to an area. We analyzed the data spreadsheets, provided by Nicole Robottom of the Park Film Office outlining size, location, and type of film shoots in Griffith Park. Our map is meant as a practical reference which includes the recorded nesting areas of raptors from an ongoing study.
We also saw the need to institute financial repercussions to offenders and especially repeat offenders. Companies who disregard and damage or erode the open areas should be penalized.
In November 2019, we presented GPAB and RAP with the four documents we had created:
Filming Guidelines for the preservation of healthy wildlife and ecosystems of Griffith Park.
A supplement to the existing GP Filming Guidelines
Sonic & Light Impacts to Wildlife Areas
Sound Disturbance on Wildlife Citations
Filming Guideline Map for Internal Use
In January 2020, Laura Howe and I met with RAP General Manager Mike Shull and Joe Salaices who were receptive to the guidelines and saw the need to establish better protocols to safeguard the Park.
Before Covid-19 halted film production, we saw a great improvement in all aspects of filming in Griffith Park.
Earlier this year we held a Zoom call with Griffith Park Superintendent Stefanie Smith, Nicole Robottom and Juan Leon of RAP Maintenance to revisit the guidelines after a long lull from filming in the Park due to the virus.
Stefanie expressed her continued strong commitment to the Filming Guidelines, and saw the need for a refresher training program for film monitors.
This year is heating up, film production-wise. Everyone is clamoring for more shows for their streaming platforms and don’t forget: cinemas are opening for popcorn and a movie!
We look forward to our treasured Griffith Park being treated by film production with the kind of respect it richly deserves!
~Lucinda Phillips, FoGP Board member
Top and center photos: Filming in sensitive habitat areas creates massive impacts to the surrounding vicinity. Film crew along Mt. Hollywood Drive which is normally closed to vehicle traffic.
Bottom photos: Filming along Mt. Hollywood Drive. Small film shoot in Crystal Springs picnic area.
thank you for this, though nobody involved with filming will ever care outside themselves enough to read this. i love Griffith Park.
I’m glad you wrote in. Lucinda Phillips deserves a great deal of credit for this article. As a FoGP board member and until recently, a member of GPAB (Griffith Park Advisory Board) she realized that filming was having enormous impacts on sensitive areas within the Park. These recommendations were an outgrowth of that concern and hopefully RAP will continue to ensure they’re followed.