Filmmaker Jem Cohen ("Chain") sent an email around this morning, alerting friends to the fact that the New York Mayor's Office of Theater, Film, and Broadcasting wants to severely restrict the ability of amateur photographers and filmmakers to operate in New York City. The proposed rules include requiring any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour (including setup and breakdown time) to get a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance.
This completely goes against the creative process for Cohen and many others. As he writes, "Being a street photographer often means standing in a random location and waiting: for the right activity, the right light, the break in the traffic; the countless other unpredictable factors that need to fall into place to make a shot worthwhile... "
"The fact is that we simply CANNOT predict where, when, and how long we are going to film or photograph; we CANNOT afford expensive liability insurance policies; we occasionally NEED to work with other people or to use tripods to support our gear. (The regulations would, for example, effectively rule out a great deal of time-lapse photography which depends on tripods and cannot possibly be done with time limitations of 10 to 30 minutes, as well as the use of large format still cameras and long lenses)."
If the New York Mayor's Office of Film and TV really cares about New York as a vital indie filmmaking center, they need to stop putting in effect procedures that help Hollywood productions and cripple the low-budget mavens that once made this city the artistic capital of the world.
Furthermore, as Cohen writes, new laws would not only hamper creativity but increase police harrassment. "If these regulations go through, it would invite if not require police to harass or shut down both professional artists and amateurs," he writes.
Cohen continues: "I believe that we must see the proposed regulations not only as a blow against New York as a city that welcomes and inspires art-making (and historical documentation), but as part of a continuum of broader attacks against civil liberties and free expression."
To voice your concerns about the proposed laws, write letters and make calls to:
Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting
New York, NY 10019
You may also wish to contact the Mayor’s office. The office is accepting public feedback until August 3, and the rules could go into effect this summer.