Film crew tweet slanders East LA community center upset about Eva Longoria’s Low Rider film

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by Tom Nguyen

What is it with film crews working in our downtown and East LA communities lately? I live in Boyle Heights where there have been film notices taped outside my building and late night filming multiple times this past month. On Thursday night, while I was helping a woman spread the word on Twitter regarding a security guard who harassed her on a downtown location for Hand of God, I came across this tweet from Film Crew L.A., a film crew union:

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Now, full disclosure, I know many people at Eastside Café, an autonomous, progressive community space in El Sereno, which is very committed and invested in the community, offering classes, workshops and socially conscious events. It’s where one of my favorite East LA bands, Las Cafeteras, got their start (and so named after the center) and I was last there on May 14th for a Free West Papua event. Since that time, I hadn’t known about this sign nor the movie, Low Rider, being filmed in the area. I forwarded the tweet to Eastside Café’s Facebook page, which quickly replied that they would write a response to this. I then tweeted some East LA media and community members for their thoughts:

eastside cafe msg

Eastside Café is a collective of different groups and individual’s names have been omitted per request.

thoughts

While waiting for responses, I started researching the Low Rider film. The IMDB describes the film as “A look at the lives of enthusiasts of the re-emerging low-riding culture in Southern California’s Latino communities.” Hey, awesome…a big Hollywood studio Universal Pictures actually showing some interest in our Latino communities with a Latina, Eva Longoria, in a leading role…the glamorous star had to fight for the role of an  “inner-city Latina”. Hey, at least they got an actor of color…for Hollywood, that’s progress, right? Take that Cameron Crowe! Until I learned what exact concerns Eastside Café had, I was willing to give the filmmakers some benefit of the doubt, but judging by Hollywood’s long history of stereotyping and excluding people of color, worries of cultural appropriation still occupied my thoughts.

The first explanation I received was from Warriors Jiu Jiu, who tweeted that the small businesses around Eastside Café were not compensated and there was no notice of filming. Then I read Eastside Café’s detailed response on their Facebook page.

warriors
eastside cafe

The majority of the comments to the post were in support of Eastside Café’s efforts to advocate on behalf of the community, with one person advising them to lodge a complaint directly with Film LA Inc., the organization tasked with permitting for on-location filming. A couple of comments accused the Eastside Café owners of being motivated by money, echoing the Film Crew L.A.’s insinuation of being “greedy”. I suspect neither those commenters nor Film Crew L.A. know about Eastside Café’s origins and long history as a Zapatista-inspired communal space; the center doesn’t even have “owners”. Their website even states: “The Eastside Café is an institution of the people and thus doesn’t belong to anyone because it belongs to everyone.” To me, accusing a center that offers donation-based programs for the community and the youth as “greedy” is more an indication of Film Crew L.A.’s ignorance in doing even the most basic research in knowing the community they’re co-opting. How hard is it to meet and greet the businesses and residents you are disrupting with your operation? Even a quick look at Eastside Café’s website or Facebook page might have made Film Crew L.A. think twice about slandering a well-known organization doing good work in the community.

Reaction on Twitter to Film Crew L.A. was very swift and vocal in support of Eastside Café:

tweet replies

So what do you think? Do Eastside Café and community members have valid points about yet another Hollywood film stereotyping a community of color and disrupting a community in a disrespectful (and possibly illegal) manner? Or is the center just angling for a payout? I tried to reach out to Film Crew L.A. for a response but they have since blocked me from their Twitter account:

film crew la blocked

It seems rather defensive and counter-productive to block someone who simply initiated dialogue for asking the community’s thoughts on a tweet Film Crew L.A. themselves initiated. I never posted anything negative nor did I make any public assumptions while I was waiting to hear from all sides. I can only communicate with them by responding to their original tweet and I’ve asked for their response to Eastside Café’s explanation behind their sign. I hope Film Crew L.A. changes their stance and decides to participate in dialogue with the community they are operating in, rather than severing communication and ignoring dialogue without an explanation.

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According to their Twitter cover page, they are related to Film Works, a public education campaign aimed at preserving California’s film industry and more than 190,000 middle class jobs that rely on it. It’s certainly disappointing and ironic that a union for a film crew, which looks out for the best interests of their workers, would turn around and impugn the very working community they are using to get their film made.

Film Crew L.A. never did respond to me but as of Saturday morning as I get ready to publish this story, Eastside Cafe tells me “the producers got word of our sign and we met with them last night, we had a dialogue with the community as there should have been one in the first place….it was a long discussion so it’s hard to write it all down here. We will be posting an update next week. We will meet with the producer again on Tuesday morning. They [location film crew] left as if this morning. I’m at the shop and our neighborhood is back to normal.”

(UPDATE 07/02/2015: On June 20, Eastside Cafe detailed their full version of events after their meeting with representatives from Blumhouse Productions, Film LA, and LAPD Film Unit. According to Eastside Cafe, Blumhouse Productions made promises but ultimately reneged last minute on a second meeting to discuss community concerns and the steps they had promised to make going forward.)

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9 Replies to “Film crew tweet slanders East LA community center upset about Eva Longoria’s Low Rider film”

  1. Good afternoon. I represent FilmL.A., Inc. — L.A.’s not-for-profit film office and creator of the Film Works public education campaign. Notwithstanding the issues and concerns raised in this article, I want to make one clarification — which is that “Film Crew LA” and “Film Works” are entirely different groups/organizations. FilmL.A. is here to help should you have concerns with filming in your community. We welcome your calls about all filming-related issues at 213.977.8600.

    • Hi Philip! Thanks for the clarification. I made the assumption they are related or affiliated based on the fact Film Crew L.A. has Film Works logo and website as their Twitter cover page. I would’ve preferred to find this out directly from them and what their exact role and affiliations are if they would respond to my inquiries. Do you know their contact information other than their Twitter account?

  2. Hi Tom — Thanks for following up. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any way to reach the Film Crew L.A. account holder or holders, except for on Twitter. Community members have been in touch with us about this particular filming issue. We appreciate the calls and opportunity to help.

  3. Pingback: Universal Pictures' "Low Riders" Revisiting the Same Old Stereotypes | Latin Heat Entertainment

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  5. First of all, I believe that any movie about East Los Angeles is better than no movie at all — what people have to keep in mind is that in Hollywood Hispanics — local qualified Latinos — are not competing behind the camera. That means we have NO jobs. Our projects don’t get viewed by the powers that be and are therefore not considered — the doors remain closed. So Hispanics, naturally, get tired of always being on the outside looking in and go into another line of work . Because we all have to eat, pay mortgages, live — just like Brian Grazer, the producer of Lowriders. I find it infuriating that the industry thinks that they can hire a few Hispanics in front of the camera and somehow the Latino magic will happen by osmosis. And I find it abhorrent that our one LA Film Festival would be so naive as to select for screening a film that did not hire one single local Hispanic behind the camera — that it had to go to Peru to find a director — when there are qualified experienced people here. And that they think this behavior will be rewarded by attendance and tickets and they apparently have no respect for local talent.

      • Corrected! Thanks for your thoughtful feedback about lack of opportunities for Latinos from our communities both in front of and behind the camera. This film certainly raises concerns, far beyond just this incident that I reported. LAFF director Stephanie Allain thinks she did a great job selecting this film: “It is authentic and made by people of color, and the actors are all real. I brought my mother and she said, ‘Oh, that made me think about that culture differently.’””
        http://deadline.com/2016/06/lowriders-gives-high-flying-opening-night-start-to-a-very-diverse-la-film-festival-1201766233/
        Grazer goes on to say in that same article that he grew up in SFV knowing the car clubs of the “Hispanic community” and wanted to make “a movie that would celebrate the culture and the Hispanic value system.” It just feels to me like another outsider’s take on a community of color, romanticizing it, hiring people of color (who are not from that community) to be “authentic” while also casting someone from New Zealand as a “Tattooed Gang Girl” and having some from the community in bit parts or as extras (I see East LA’s Mike Flores in the background in one of the pics). There are going to be people in the community who support it, like the auto shop that gave them permission to film, the figures in the lowrider community who Grazer says gave their blessing, and then there are those in the community who will roll their eyes at yet another narrative of our communities of color told through the white gaze.

        • Thanks, Tom. Just finished “When it rains…” my first zero/budget guerrilla/indie feature. Perhaps somone here can say a few words about working like I do with a largely Hispanic cast but not the milieu. We are just as good and bad as regular people.
          Kind regards.

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