Joel, the amazingly hospitable man with whom Chris and I, and soon Paulina, are staying is my former college roommate. Joel's a geek; he sells large data solutions to major corporations and governments. He's now married to Devon, a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit of one of the local hospitals. </exposition>
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This morning Devon asked me how filming is going. After I told her about our second interaction with the police, she mentioned that one of her coworkers has a friend who tried to film in San Francisco and that person said it was next to impossible to get permits. I have no idea what that person was trying to do, how big a project they were working on, or what it might have been about.
That has not been our experience. In fact, the amazing people at the San Francisco Film Commission are amazing. They were incredibly helpful during pre-production. They quickly responded to all the emails I sent them, they answered all my questions when I called them. At our budget level, which is less than $250k, permits are $100/day, as long and a possible turnaround time of as little as 24hrs because our crew is so small. Then, Janet, one of the ladies at SFFC, told me about how the city will compensate us for all our permit fees, police expenses, and if we rented an office, they'd pay us back for that too, up to $600k. That's how awesome our experience has been.
I've got nothing but praise for the people who work for the City of San Francisco.
That said, unless we're doing something kinda strange, what could be viewed as dangerous or about which someone might call the police/fire/public official, we haven't been getting permits. We just don't have the budget. It's almost a waste of our time and of the City's, not to mention the money we're saving them by not asking for them to pay us back after the fact, per Janet's recommendation.
The simple fact is, we're a small crew, we move fast and tight and we don't really disturb anything around us. So, what's the point? It's just more paperwork for them. And, no one likes paperwork.
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Now, "It's story time!"
On Monday, we decided to film in the Mission district. It's gritty. Visually, it's eclectic and beautiful. There's tons of largely unregulated culture happening and some really great places to eat.
In the script for ALGORITHM, Will's apartment is in the Mission (when SF people refer sections of the city, they generally will not say the word "district"). One of the scenes takes place around dusk. So, we chose our angle, set up the camera, got one take, but Satsuki wanted another one. I've learned to largely trust Satsuki, as he's got a great eye and a real sense of beauty.
We readied ourselves for Take 2 and then the trouble broke out. Right next to the entrance to Will's apartment there's a minimart. Someone walked into the minimart and caused trouble. The minimart Proprietor pulled out a bat and pushed Troublemaker out, with the bat. Troublemaker fell over backwards and rolled onto the sidewalk, where he lay for a minute in a daze.
Troublemaker wandered around outside for a few minutes, then headed back in. Somehow Troublemaker got his hands on the bat and chased Proprietor out. Proprietor reached inside a Handyman's truck and was about to pull out a beam of some sort. Handyman didn't allow this.
Moments later, the police showed up. Within seconds, Officer #1 pulled out his gun, aimed it at Troublemaker and said, "Drop the weapon." It took about a minute, but Troublemaker obeyed, was cuffed and put in the back of Police Car #1. Police Car #1 drove off and Police Car #2 stayed for another 20 minutes getting the full story from Proprietor.
Only then were we able to get Take 2. The irony is that while reviewing the footage, I actually like Take 1. I mean, I'll probably use footage from Takes 2-5, but Take 1 would have worked by itself.
We didn't take any pictures or film any of it.
1) Police tend to not like being on video (we can debate the ethicality of this at another time) and we want the police to notice us as little as possible for the aforementioned not-getting-permits-for-everything mentioned above;
2) If we got it on video, there's a chance the police would want that footage as evidence in some kind of case, and we don't have the time or desire to get involved in local politics. Basically, we have to pick the battles we're going to fight, and a minor street scuffle doesn't qualify.
So, if you're following me on Twitter and you saw the tweet "The police showed up on #ALGORITHM's set again. It wasn't our fault, this time," now you have the full story.