A Private Enemy Tries to Sabotage Public Filming


When Spike Lee was preparing to shoot scenes for his movie ''Summer of Sam'' on Suffolk and Rivington Streets a few weeks ago, his production company taped photocopied notices to telephone poles informing residents filming would take place. But the next day, the crew on the movie -- which is about the Son of Sam murders in 1976 and '77 -- was puzzled to discover that additional notices had appeared overnight. These unauthorized announcements, which claimed to be an ' 'open letter from Spike Lee,'' listed the office phone number of the location manager, Al Valentine, and stated that in return for ''disrupting the daily lives of poor people,'' Mr. Valentine would distribute free videocameras to the first 500 residents who called him. The production company received dozens of inquiries from people unaware that the postings were a prank masterminded by Al Giordano, 38, a Lower East Side activist who accuses the media industry of becoming too arrogant.

''When a film company or television show comes in here they're telling people they can't walk on their own streets,'' Mr. Giordano, a former political journalist for The Boston Phoenix, said as he strolled up Suffolk Street. ''They block traffic and take up hundreds of parking spaces and the local bodegas lose business. My dream is that no Hollywood film crew or news organization could come into this neighborhood or any neighborhood without 20 citizens grabbing their videocameras and shooting back.''

In recent years, with such films as ''Basquiat'' and ''Men in Black'' and television shows like ''Law and Order'' and ''NYPD Blue'' being filmed on the Lower East Side and the East Village, Mr. Giordano has not been alone in opposing the influx of stars and sound trucks. At one point, some residents disrupted the filming of a movie by papering their windows with aluminum foil, which reflects the beams of camera lights.

Although Mr. Giordano is quick to point out that he is not part of an organized group, he is perhaps the most energetic adversary of local filming. In March 1997, while ''Law and Order'' was filming scenes on East Third Street, he posted a flier listing the telephone and pager numbers of a Universal Television employee and stating that NBC had agreed to provide three months of rent-free housing for 100 East Village and Lower East Side residents. And when Mr. Lee's crew tried to film the facade of a local art studio while Mr. Giordano was inside, he quickly scrawled a dollar sign and the message ''He's Gotta Have it'' on a placard and taped it to the studio's front door. Mr. Lee stopped filming and instead posed next to the placard for a photograph.

Julianne Cho, the director of publicity for the Mayor's Office on Film, Theater and Broadcasting, explained that while film makers were allowed on public property, ''If someone wants to put a sign in a door or a window, that's private property.'' Ms. Cho also said the city planned to scale back the number of filming permits it would allow on the Lower East Side. She pointed out, though, that 78,000 New Yorkers work on film and television production in the city each year and that last year the industry contributed $237 million to the city's coffers.

Mr. Giordano makes it clear that he takes little consolation in that. Pausing on Rivington Street opposite a playground basketball court last week, he recalled that he recently discouraged two English location scouts from using that court in a film by telling them plenty of local residents armed with water guns would shoot at their camera lights and cause the bulbs to explode. ''The first time I saw a film crew blocking the streets I felt a visceral hatred for the whole industry.'' he said. ''It's their impunity that really gets me. They should go back to Hollywood and build a little New York City for themselves.''



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