"Stop the sweeps! Stop the sweeps! Stop the sweeps!"
On March 17, a group of protesters drank at the James K. Hahn City Hall East complex in downtown L.A., holding handwritten signs including "Stop War on the Poor" and "Encampment Eviction Kills." Then a director called cut on this scene from Freeform's Drama Good Trouble, who is comprised of 20-somethings living in the neighborhood. He admitted to the audience by wearing a megaphone, declaring his own 'Services Not Sweeps
The video from the incident quickly drew worldwide attention online just one example of Hollywood productions' growing friction with unhoused residents. A 2020 by Knock LA reported that Apple TV+'s Truth Be Told had displaced more than 75 unhoused people, also near City Hall East; Endeavor Content, which produced the show, denied the report. The following spring, a local Fox station reported that the 2021 Oscars at Union Station had displaced unhoused individuals. (City Councilmember Kevin De
Downtown Los Angeles has served as the go-to urban backlot for a century, and its 54-block Skid Row, which started in the late nineteenth century, has complicate it. Yet, as the number of shoot days in the area has increased, and the region's homelessness crisis persists, critics argue, productions are causing city crackdowns. Meanwhile, crewmembers say they're just trying to go about their permitted business amid a difficult terrain. The Good Trouble incident became a flashpoint of
There are always periods of shooting, according to Kristina Meshelski, a member of Street Watch LA. She believes that Section 41.18 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code which prohibits persons from sitting, lying, sleeping, or keeping personal belongings in a manner that might impede filming, when Section 41.18 is not the law, but sweeps for shooting have been a constant.
Meshelski claims that in some instances, a production intentionally clears an area, while the city more broadly moves people out of specific areas for the benefit of production. "The most important thing is for the industry to take responsibility for their role in the process of sweeps," she says.
Joanna Johnson, the executive producer of Good Trouble, tweeted March 18 that her production had been unfairly maligned. We had nothing to do with this planned sweep, she said. We never move anyone so we may film, but we notify the unhoused community a week in advance when we are filming.
According to Brown, the district's communications director, there were two events around City Hall East on March 17th. The first was a "housing operation" (entailing a demolition of an encampment), which according to Brown included offers for housing. The second was a regular Thursday power-washing (known as "Care+ Cleanup"), which requires unhoused individuals to move and relocate their belongings on that day. The officials at the district's office have not updated the 41.18 version.
Activists claim that the clearance from Toriumi Plaza was distinct from the sweep in question, which occurred along Main Street. "This was next to the production vehicles for the shooting," says Devon Tsuno, a member of J-Town Action and Solidarity, who saw LAPD officers guarding a roped-off area while city sanitation employees removed materials from the tents of two people living on the sidewalk in adjacent structures. Tsuno, one of two witnesses to the incident, says that by his count
Mark Horvath, the founder of the homelessness education group Invisible People (and a former TV distributor) says he talked with Good Trouble writers in January after they asked how they might use their ideas to assist unworked people. He has since publicly defended Good Trouble. Horvath tells THR that his team believes that the sweeps will be fought.
Industry experts have developed different approaches to address the challenges of working in unhoused people. One senior location manager who asked to remain anonymous says, "What I've attempted is to offer something to those who we're trying to displace food or vouchers or gift cards. We are not permitted to give cash anymore." It was their conviction that 41.18 might be applied, but "we try to use the humanitarian method."
Tim Ballou, the CEO of Film This!, which assists producers with location filming and permitting in Southern California, says film production personnel engage directly with the unhoused on the majority of locations he permits in downtown L.A. and Hollywood. "Gift cards are handed out as compensation for moving,," Ballou said in an email. He also describes a process by which a producer or agent working on its behalf may contact the LAPD to assist with encampments that a production wants to move.
The nonprofit organization that grants permits and is contracted with the city, refers requests by productions for outreach to homeless individuals in a permitted production zone to the LAPD Film Unit for follow-up, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. According to a spokesman, this process "comes with no guarantees," adding: "It may be necessary to have a backup location."
The LAHSA and the LAPD have told THR they don't require or require individuals to go for film productions, and the Bureau of Sanitation has noted in its statement that its goal is to remove trash and personal belongings for storage.
On Skid Row, a former Julliard student, was shot and shot on board the L.A. River from the Arts District by location manager Kokayi Ampah. He claims that the production was based on the true story of the musicians. Both ampah and others said that they contacted local agencies before filming. Ampah said: 'There was no police involved in it,' he says.
According to Ballou, these assumptions may be obscure even to key artists who work on a production: "If the location manager does their job, a producer, AD, and director would never know there was a problem to begin with," he writes. Guild International has declined to comment.
Theo Henderson, who hosts the podcast We the Unhoused, and who shot and directed the clearance on March 17 that activists attribute to Good Trouble, believes that productions using the streets and sidewalks where they live, as well as the extent that they've obtained a filming permit, allows unhoused individuals to get paid. He adds, "[We]deem the unhoused residents to be a victim of our culture," and said, "[We are requesting that any city council remove them."
A journalist interviews Luca, an unhoused man portrayed by Booboo Stewart, about his Kafkaesque paperwork difficulties in obtaining employment. Soon after they arrive at the sidewalk encampment, Luca finds that city workers have begun to clear it. "Please," Luca tells a police officer, "You're throwing my life."
Despite its good intentions, Good Trouble reacted to some of those it wanted to promote. Horvath points out, "As homelessness grows, it will continue to be something that movie makers must deal with. So my hope is this will begin a conversation."
The Hollywood Reporter Magazine publishes a version of this story first on April 13.