Then less than two weeks later Streetwatch LA member Ian Carr broke the story that an entirely different film company had somehow arranged for a large encampment in front of City Hall East to be swept away in advance of their shoot. Twitter user @publicownedbus also provided valuable info, and then ace Knock LA reporter Cerise Castle also wrote about this incident.1
Recent events have made it clear that we need an effective way to search the content of Los Angeles film permits for names and phone numbers of location managers, locations, and other essential information. Permits are coordinated by an entity called FilmLA. FilmLA is putatively private but is made subject to the California Public Records Act at least by its contract with the City of Los Angeles.2 But FilmLA bossman Paul Audley refuses to comply with the law.
And while I’m not giving up on legal remedies, they take forever and it turns out that it’s not necessary to wait in order to obtain some of the records. In particular, the permits themselves. Audley admits that the permits are subject to the CPRA and they are all in some technical sense available on FilmLA’s website. However, the search is abysmal.
It’s only possible to search on four predetermined fields, which are Permit Number, Company Name, Production Title, and Date of First Activity. If you want other information, like all permits at a given location, you’re out of luck. Not only that, but it’s impossible to search even those fields without being logged in. This excludes search engines from indexing the permits (unless arrangements are made to allow them in, which FilmLA has not done).3
But there’s probably no way to compel these people to let search engines in, even with a lawsuit, so I took matters into my own hands and scraped the site of most of the permits.4 I’m in the process of putting these all on Archive.Org. There are presently more than 45K individual files uploaded but there are over 100GB and it’s taking a while to get them up. The Archive allows search engines to index their site, of course, so eventually all the permits will be searchable on the open internet.
Continue reading Self Help And The California Public Records Act — The Case Of FilmLA — And Their Weirdly Intransigent Attitude Towards The Law — And A Hacky But Functional Way To Scrape Their Website — Which I Did Over The Last Week Or So — And Now It’s — At Least Theoretically — Possible To Batch Search The Permits