May 1, 2008 / 7:26 AM / 10 years ago

Will Smith film shoot annoys Hollywood neighbors

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The entire world loves Will Smith, but not Dresden Graham, a 65-year-old retiree who is waging a war against Smith’s latest film, the drama “Seven Pounds,” which is shooting in her Hollywood neighborhood.

Will Smith flashes a victory sign as he arrives on the red carpet to the premiere of the film 'I Am Legend' in Berlin, January 7, 2008. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

The production is based just three houses up from Graham’s home, where she has lived in since the mid-‘80s. Trucks line the street, crews are busy setting up and striking down, generators hum, and security and police officers patrol the area.

Graham, who has signs in her yard and on her house that read “Will Smith, Go Film at Your Mansions” and “Put Potty Toilets on Your Neighbor’s House,” has a litany of complaints. She doesn’t like the fume-spewing trucks parked running in front of her house, where the production has placed portable toilets. She’s not that keen on the planned night shoot that will go to 3 a.m., either, because it calls for bright lights, rain machines and Great Danes.

“We had no choice,” she says. “The neighborhood had no choice.”

But her biggest complaint is with FilmL.A., the nonprofit organization that acts as a liaison for the city, its residences and film companies.

Graham points out, accurately, that FilmL.A. gets its funding through permits — the more it issues, the more revenue it generates. And “Pounds” is the fifth production in six weeks to occupy a two-block area around her home.

FilmLA says the house where “Pounds” is filming has been used on only four shoots in the past year. It doesn’t share Graham’s view that the area has hosted too many productions.

Residents are grumbling, though, even though many work in the entertainment industry and were reluctant to speak out against a big star like Smith and a bigger studio like Columbia. They complain about noise and the loss of parking spaces, which force certain apartment residents to park at a nearby church and take a shuttle bus to their building.

“We are completely on board with filming on our streets, but this is too much,” says Amy Aquino, a member of the neighborhood association who also is on the committee that oversees film shoots.

Aquino, a working actress who has appeared on shows like “ER,” understands the need to film in Los Angeles and wants to keep shoots in the city, but she also wants a little more respect for residents.

“You can put up with a lot for a day or two but not for two weeks,” she says.

By most accounts, the production has done things by the book: securing permits, conducting a survey to get the required resident signatures to sign off for night shoots and also paying many residents. It even donated $5,000 to the neighborhood association.

That matters little to Graham, who says that the production tried to negotiate with her: “I told them, ‘Here’s what I have in mind: You give me what you’re giving (the owner of the house being used) because when you’re filming at her house, you’re filming in my house.”‘

FilmL.A. admits that some residents initially resisted the shoot but that it has mitigated many concerns. “Sometimes we can’t make everybody happy,” spokesman Todd Lindgren says. “We have done a good job.”

The “Pounds” shoot is proceeding as planned and will continue on and off until the middle of the month. Graham knows she can’t stop it but also knows that because of her signs, the production was forced to construct a false flowered wall to hide them from the camera’s view.

“It’s a small victory,” she says, “but at least it’s something.”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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