Time and time again during the pandemic, film shoots have taken priority over the lives of Angelenos.
Early on the morning of December 11, some 75 unhoused people dozing at the intersection of Temple and Main in Downtown Los Angeles were roused by the sounds of semi trucks parking next to their tents.
Camera rigs, lightings stands, monitors, and other production equipment were wheeled past their encampment and assembled outside of the Kenneth J. Hahn City Hall East building. A craft services dining tent stocked with pre-packaged food was set up just a few feet away from a grouping of tents. An extra dressed up to appear unhoused sat in the coned off shooting area, holding a cardboard sign. The crew was gearing to start shooting a scene for the Apple+ series Truth be Told, which stars award-winning actors Octavia Spencer and Aaron Paul. As the production began to get under way on the morning of December 11, many of the unhoused residents were asked by production staff to gather their belongings and move along.
The series Truth Be Told has already been in the headlines: the doctor initially hired to test actors, producers, and the crew for COVID-19 never held an active medical license, and was in fact a former sushi salesman.
This is the second time this week that production crews from the company Are You Sleeping Productions, Inc. descended into downtown encampments and displaced residents. Records from FilmLA show that shoots were scheduled in the El Pueblo area on December 8, 2020. On Tuesday, crews set up in the El Pueblo Historic Monument.
Because the monument sits in a special zone near Bridge Housing, it undergoes a deep cleaning every Tuesday. Unhoused residents are expected to move their belongings out of the cleaning zone each morning before the CARE+ (Comprehensive Cleaning and Rapid Engagement Program) team arrives.
Ian Carr, an activist with Street Watch LA who has been doing outreach in the area since September, told KNOCK.LA that Tuesday’s scheduled clean up did not happen in areas where the film crews were present. He also says that the film trucks presence made it impossible to park mobile showers that were scheduled to be there.
“The movies have prevented the expected weekly shower services. They have showed up and displaced 75 people and put cameras where they permanently sleep.” Carr says. “When [Mayor] Garcetti says activists block hygiene services, he should talk to studios.”
Carr arrived at the Temple and Main this morning around 11 AM. He says that people who were living on the street on the north side of the James K. Hahn City Hall East building were forced to move to make way for production. Several residents who spoke to KNOCK.LA confirmed that account. One woman, who declined to give her name, showed a fresh scar on her back from a surgery she said she had three weeks ago. She said that she was unable to move herself and her belongings out of the area she had been asked to vacate. She said she planned to continue sitting near her belongings.
Carr said that productions like these have been unfair to the city’s vulnerable residents. Last week, a film shoot at Union Station was cancelled after the Koreatown-based homeless outreach and advocacy group Ktown for All discovered that the production was responsible for the cancellation of coronavirus testing at the site.
In the middle of a horrible and terrifying COVID spike, LA just cancelled all of its Dec 1 appointments at Union Station (one of the only transit-accessible facilities) with less than 24hrs notice because of A FILM SHOOT!! @MayorOfLA @metrolosangeles @lapublichealth WTF???!!??? pic.twitter.com/zwR36TH4G4— Ktown for All 💜❤ (@KtownforAll) December 1, 2020
FilmLA, which is responsible for issuing film permits in LA County, said this afternoon that advance notification of filming in the area was distributed on December 8. But the unhoused residents who spoke to KNOCK.LA said they never received it. FilmLA said they were unable to comment on “the details of interactions between local residents and production company personnel.”
Are You Sleeping Productions Inc., the company behind the shoot, did not respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE 12/12/2020 : Representatives from Endeavor Content, a production company on Truth Be Told, reached out to KNOCK.LA denying the number of unhoused people asked to move, the manner in which they were moved, the placement of the craft services tent shown in KNOCK.LA’s photos, and that the craft services tent impeded social distancing. After review, KNOCK.LA could not verify Endeavor Content’s claims.
UPDATE 12/12/2020: An earlier version of this article stated that an Apple representative also denied the number of unhoused people asked to move, the manner in which they were moved, the placement of the craft services tent shown in KNOCK.LA’s photos, and that the craft services tent impeded social distancing. However, an Apple representative has since clarified that they do not deny that depiction of events.