LA house of porn raises neighbors' ire in tony section

By Bob Pool Los Angeles Times Nov. 24, 2002

LOS ANGELES - For more than three months, tiny Sleepy Hollow Lane in one of Los Angeles' most tranquil residential neighborhoods has been turned into an impromptu stage for adult filmmaking.

Nearby homeowners say they are forced to draw their drapes and lock their children inside their $1 million homes when porn movie actors and production crews show up for 12-hour film shoots at a handsome, white-stuccoed house on the end of the lane's cul-de-sac.

Since August, eight adult films have been shot there, filming permit records show.

Angry residents contend city leaders and officials who issue film production permits have been slow to respond to complaints about the turmoil the moviemaking is causing in the hilltop neighborhood.

Their grousing has prompted the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., the organization that issues the permits, to take a look at the filming.

The owner of the house said he was unaware of his neighbors' unhappiness, however. He denied that the filming is having any impact on others.

Lawyer Marc Smith said he and his wife decided to rent out their home for adult films on a whim after their three boys went off to college.

"It wasn't like we put an ad in the paper, 'House Available for Porno Shoot.' They came to us. I'm not in that business. Somebody came months ago and solicited us," Smith said.

But the Sleepy Hollow Lane dispute illustrates the continuing balancing act that Angelenos, entertainment industry workers and city officials must perform to keep filming activity in Los Angeles while keeping residents happy.

After a decline in filming last year, local production has rebounded, the EIDC said. As many as 200 location shoots a day take place outside studios. Officials say they do not know how many of the 40,000 or so Los Angeles shoots a year take place in residential areas.

Mainstream filmmakers say they pick neighborhood backdrops because of the architectural style or the type of trees growing there.

Adult-film production crews apparently like the modern interior look of the Smiths' house, which the owner said can be filmed so that it resembles such settings as a corporate boardroom or a nightclub. The home's secluded and opulent backyard swimming pool is also an attraction.

But the backyard is apparently not isolated enough. Last week, a film company reportedly ordered a 10-year-old girl in a neighboring yard to go into her house before the cameras rolled for one explicit scene.

"She could see what was going on . . . I had to explain to her what a porn movie was. She said she didn't know they made movies like that . . . she's a kid," said the girl's mother, who asked not to be named.

Another neighbor, Val Cowley, objected to scantily clad actresses going in and out of the house and occasionally being filmed on the front lawn.

"I've got a 13-year-old son. It's not the kind of thing I want him exposed to," the mother of four said. "We chose a family neighborhood when we moved here. This is just not the environment we want."

Sexy Girls Next Door was being shot recently by Playboy Enterprises. A large "Playboy TV" sign bearing the Playboy bunny logo was affixed to the front of the Smith house.

In the street, two camera crews filmed three actresses exiting a stretch limo and entering the house.

The street filming was illegal. So was the catering truck parked on the cul-de-sac and the line of 20 crew and cast vehicles parked nearby, according to EIDC officials.

The film crew's $450 permit, which is good for two weeks and 10 locations, authorized filming only on the Smiths' property, not a public street, said Darryl Seif, vice president and general manager of operations for the EIDC.

The catering truck should have been on the Smiths' property, too, and the private cars should have been out of the neighborhood under terms of the permit, he said.

And any areas used for nudity or sex scenes must be screened so they are not visible to the public, Seif said.

Because of neighbors' complaints, Seif said he plans to meet with the Smiths.

"Even though the production company is the responsible party, the homeowner should monitor, too," Seif said.

Playboy spokesman Scott Barton said he plans to discuss last week's filming with the production crew, which he said was producing soft-core nude footage, not sex scenes.

While the city does not generally limit the amount of filming at any location, "we'll step in if they are turning a house into a commercial property," said Kathleen Milnes, an EIDC spokeswoman.

Smith seemed surprised that filming used the front of his house as a backdrop.

Smith said he is prepared to stop the filming immediately, if neighbors "come to us and say they are offended, and it's not about jealousy or the money" he and his wife get.

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