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Re: On the Media and Community Gardens

A second vote of support for the notion that as community gardens we have to be aware of and protect ourselves against abuse in the name of the media.

Every type of incident Adam mentioned is very familiar with our garden (6th Street & Avenue B Garden, NYC) and we have enacted very strict rules regarding any filming in the garden. Once you enact these rules most film producers, TV people, fashion photographers and whatnot are usually very willing to abide by them. Those who object would probably be trouble makers anyway.

Here are some of our rules:

1) Every non-news production must make a monetary contribution to the garden. A major movie or TV show must pay going rates for location rentals. Smaller productions we make a case by case assessment. The money must be paid upfront!

2) Every production has to have location insurance! This is really important.

3) Producers must sign an agreement promising to replace anything damaged by the production. Aside from the guarantee you get, this agreement usually makes the production people really careful and very little damage happens.

4) We include money to pay garden members to supervise the production while it's in the garden. Films are a commercial production and we don't expect garden members to volunteer their time for it. The garden sets the rate and gets the money up front. These garden supervisors should be prepared to lay down the law and, if needed, call the police if a film crew abuses the garden. The garden member can donate their salary to the garden if they choose and frequently they do.

We don't make these requests if it's a news or documentary production that will provide positive publicity for the garden and community gardening in general. They are, however, expected to behave themselves and have location insurance.

Before we had the rules all sorts of trouble happened. In addition to the things Adam mentioned which I assume happened in his garden; a music video crew had the rock band they were filming smash our garden furniture around. We didn't know this happened until I saw the video on MTV a year later. An independent production staged a nude scene in the middle of the day. Nude people are OK but not in a public garden.

After we set the rules a few years ago, things are much better. We had major studio film production last October with lights, cables, big cameras and sound equipment all night long and it was a positive experience. The garden made some needed money, a couple of garden members made some extra money and nearly zero damage occurred. The year before a TV sitcom came to the garden for some location footage outside the garden and actually hired some garden members as extras. We've had a number of independent and student films and all have been fine. This year one small crew stayed longer then they should have and they got away without paying extra but that was an exception.

We don't expect a copy of the finished production as we know that even major actors in films have a hard time getting a copy.

Yes, media people frequently act under the delusion that they are gifts from heaven, but when you set reasonable rules a beneficial experience can be had by all.

William Hohauser
6th Street & Avenue B Garden,
New York City

On Dec 3, 2005, at 10:47 PM, Adam36055@aol.com wrote:

Like many Americans, you mention the world, "film, TV, documentary, media,"
everyone decides that it's wonderful to let the folks in so we can all get our
Andy Warhol, " ten minutes of fame." If you get story control, and can shape
the story, and get the right to do so, up front, it works, but if they're
making the money, and you don't get a film credit, copy of the documentary to show
your own funders and no up-front agreement to include a credit or
acknowledgment of the volunteer organizations they're filming, then you get screwed.

I don't like to see community gardeners get screwed, or have their time

All of this has really happened in gardens I've been involved with over the

It ain't nice when the "nice," film crew wants to...

1) Shoot a TV commercial using your garden as the back drop for a chemical
fertilizer that you wouldn't use, and didn't tell you about it because they
"thought it was OK, it's a garden isn't it?"

2) Have decided to use your garden for an alfresco sex flick and "forget" to
tell you at the last moment. And want you to open up your garden at night t

3) Feel they have the right to trash your garden with heavy cables and weight
bearing tripods. "It will grow back, won't it?"

4) Shoot their film and never send you a complimentary video copy for your

5) Send in an arrogant NYC Film School crew that lights up dope ( against
your garden rules) because they "need to get loose," and feel they can pee on
your roses because "it won't hurt anything."

6) Schedule a shoot during the work week, for which community gardeners take
off of work to show up for, and the production company says, about a week
later, if ever, that "the client decided to shoot somewhere else - thanks for
being there, but we couldn't help it."

And in all honesty, if I ever see a Japanese film crew wanting to shoot in a
NYC community garden who promises to send a copy of the finished video to the
filmed garden and doesn't leave jack except a few pieces of origami, a
business card and trampled on flowers - it will be too soon.

As they say, you can't make this manure up.

Now gardens that I've been involved with have had lots of garden
documentaries, PBS filming, and I and other gardeners given countless press interviews
and tours to greening folks - and it can be very positive.

" PBS Wild Kingdom" was really classy, as was "A Lot in Common,". "Grace
from the Garden," was a really good book, with a contract from Rodale, and a
number of scholarly and non-scholarly documentarians have been both sincere, and
respectful of gardeners and gardeners's time.

But there are lots of hustlers out there who waste volunteer community
gardeners's time. And you disappoint your volunteers a few times, and you end up
with fewer volunteers.

So I think good think to do, I think, is to ask professional documentarians
who ain't community gardeners up front to join the American Community
Gardening Association for the lousy $25 it will cost them, and at the very least let
us know who the heck they are.

I mean, it is the right thing to do. Media is a business, and like any
business they should be asked to ante up and identify themselves for any other
segment of our society that they respected, at all.

And between you and me, $25 - the price of a few pizzas and beers on a
volunteer day isn't too much to ask of any business person or any garden that wants
to use the priceless resources of the American Community Gardening

Adam Honigman

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http:// www.communitygarden.org

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