We've Got Hollywood Covered

MPTF Intimidation Tactics Are Alive and Well

Their willingness to run over our rights is now extending beyond the Wasserman Campus all the way to Century City.

MPTF intimidation tactics are alive and well. Friday night I went over to Century City around 8:30 p.m. to shoot some video of the set up activities for tonight's The Evening Before Emmy Event …

Before entering Century Park I told the security supervisors inside at 2000 Avenue of the Stars that I wanted to shoot the park and buildings outside. They said OK, so I proceeded. It took less than five minutes for a hired MPTF security guard to show up and ask me to stop shooting.

I shouldn’t have engaged with him, but I did. I said I had permission to shoot the park from the building staff. The MPTF guard told me that building security was incorrect and then confirmed that he was going to escort me off the property.

This is a very uncomfortable situation and so I turned off the camera. But why? Why did I allow the MPTF security guard to intimidate me? Century Park is nothing if not a public place … thousands of people walk through it every day. There are restaurants and stores there. I was doing no damage and wasn't making a disturbance.

But the MPTF guard got on his radio and shortly two other security men showed up. The level of intimidation was rising so I told them that I got what I needed and was going to leave. It as then that Mike the MPTF security guard told me that could delete my pictures if he wanted to. I took the tape out of my camera and told him it was private property and that he would not touch it. Then Mike told me he was going to call the police and I encouraged him to do so.

According to photographer’s rights experts even threatening to take film or tape from a photographer is a crime. According to a publication called "The Photographer’s Right" by Bert P. Krages II, Attorney at Law, “Taking film directly or indirectly by threatening to use force or call a law enforcement agency can constitute criminal offenses such as theft and coercion. It can likewise constitute a civil tort such as conversion.” According to Mr. Krages, the number of such incidents instigated by private security guards like those hired by the MPTF is on the rise.

I believe that if any local, network, or cable news cameraman had walked onto the grounds of Century Park and started taking pictures the security guards wouldn't have done anything because they would have to acknowledge the first amendment freedom of the press to take pictures. The U.S. Constitution guarantees me the same rights but the MPTF guards didn’t respect them.

I believe I was the victim of a crime and I’m sharing it here and I’m going to share it with other news organizations too. It feels like the MPTF runs over lots of rights these days and their willingness to do so is now extending beyond the Wasserman Campus all the way to Century City.

The more I reflect on Friday night’s experience in Century City the more it becomes clear to me that the MPTF security men were acting on orders to infringe my rights rather than protect those or their employers. If I had been up in a building taking pictures there would have been no issue. During the entire time I was shooting no work was stopped. No property was damaged. Nobody’s rights, but mine, were violated.

Ironically last night I was standing on the balcony next to the Annenberg Space for Photography when the MPTF security harassment began. This is a place that celebrates photography and the freedom of expression to take pictures. This is fundamental stuff people. Many of the world’s great wrongs have been exposed by photographers taking pictures. This freedom is part of the American experience.

According to "The Photographer’s Right" taking pictures is almost never a crime. There are exceptions, “a significant one is that commanders of military installations can prohibit photographs of specific areas when they deem it necessary to protect national security. The U.S. Department of Energy can also prohibit photography of designated nuclear facilities although the publicly visible areas of nuclear facilities are usually not designated as such.”

The MPTF party site in Century City doesn’t qualify as a military installation although tomorrow night it could be called a Hollywood “power facility”. But tomorrow night this location will be extensively photographed and the resulting pictures used all over the world.

My pictures, being shot the evening before The Evening Before, as part of a story exploring the closure of the MPTF Long Term Care and Hospital units come under the parameters of press freedom. That the MPTF wouldn’t like such a story is a given and reveals their concerns about the perceptions of lavish parties in Century City as they prepare to evict residents of their Long Term Care facility because of alleged financial shortfalls.

The visual contrast between Hollywood’s elite partying under the stars in Century City at an MPTF party sponsored by People magazine, Sprint, and Target while the old and infirm residents of the Long-Term Care face eviction is powerful and provocative. People Magazine can make this work because they are in “the public’s right to know” business, but Sprint and Target are sponsoring the event because they want access to the rich and powerful who can endorse their business activities.

It’s a pretty good bet that neither company would want to be associated with an organization whose policies could be termed as cruel mistreatment of senior citizens.

MPTF officials bridle at calling their actions “eviction." They prefer to call it relocation. There are historic parallels in the relocation language that make this a very important story to follow. We will continue to do so.

Dean Butler is a producer of documentary content for broadcast, internet and DVD distribution. He is also an actor, best known for his work on the classic family drama, "Little House on the Prairie." His mother-in-law is a resident of the long-term care unit at the Motion Picture Home.