Want to catch a movie? You bring the camera, they'll bring the handcuffs.



People fully flexing the First Amendment by producing a major Hollywood flick can’t be photographed, according to the City of Fort Lauderdale.

Fort Lauderdale police officers arrested a journalist for photographing the downtown building in which a film was being produced.

Journalists can’t use the First Amendment to cover a form of free expression? Oh, the irony.

The South Florida Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the news website SouthFloridaGayNews.com filed a complaint Tuesday questioning the constitutionality of a total ban on photography within hundreds of yards of filming for the movie Rock of Ages starring Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Alec Baldwin.

According to the South Florida SPJ, two professional photographers were stopped from shooting near the area and “the policy precludes anyone from taking pictures even as they dine at restaurants that are within a city block” of a local nightclub used as a setting in the film.

Fort Lauderdale police also threatened to arrest (but did not) a South Florida Gay News correspondent for taking pictures and video of the film location while outside of the “No Trespassing” zone.

“No Trespassing” signs are posted around the filming premises and Fort Lauderdale police officers, paid by the film’s production company, are “stationed around the film set and adjacent to the signs in order to stand guard at the entrances to the film set,” according to the complaint.

The problem lies not in the fact that areas have been sectioned off for the filming, but rather that the city is prohibiting the photography of those areas from afar.

The “No Trespassing” signs read:

“Warning. No Trespassing. Photography of this area is strictly prohibited. Strictly enforced by FLPD. Violators subjet (sic) to arrest. City Ordinance 16-1.”

Along with the misspelling, the signs also mistakenly cite a city ordinance that fails to mention the preclusion of from-a-distance photography of a designated area.

The plaintiffs are arguing that the prohibition of all photography of the film location is a violation of the First Amendment and creates a chilling effect upon the public’s exercise of guaranteed rights.

The complaint seeks injunctive and declaratory relief of the photography ban and more than $15,000 in damages.

It seems cut-and-dry, really.

The production crew acquired the necessary permits to shut down public streets and ban citizens from entering certain buildings. The City of Fort Lauderdale majorly profits from the film seeing as its police officers are being paid and the production crew is paying for its permits to use various locations in the city.

But who knew there was a permit available for purchase that stripped citizens of their rights? When you have Hollywood funds though, movie magic can stretch into reality.

A film crew banning all photography in a city is an infringement on citizens’ rights and the production crew has attempted to smoke screen the unconstitutionality by providing funds to the city.

Luckily for citizens and journalists alike, the SPJ and South Florida Gay News have taken the first step to clear the fog.

Tagged: First Amendment, newsgathering, Photography and Videography