A Showtime film crew that received a permit to film in a number of East Hampton Town locations after meeting with Supervisor Bill Wilkinson to outline its plans prompted an angry outcry this week from Amagansett’s Beach Hampton neighborhood.
Residents said their streets were blocked by trucks, that police halted homeowners out for a stroll, and that a town beach parking lot was taken over and blocked off for days. The cast of 60, along with noise from trucks and lights set up for nighttime filming — allowed “from sundown to sunup,” according to the permit — kept them awake until 2 or 3 a.m., they said.
In comments at a town board meeting on Tuesday, and in several letters to the editor published in today’s Star, homeowners described a crowded and busy scene during the filming, which went on from Monday to Friday last week. No advance notice or information about the shoot had been provided to them, they said.
The film crew was making the pilot of a program called “The Affair,” a drama exploring the impacts of infidelity when the wife of a local ranch owner has an affair with a summer visitor.
Rona Klopman, the president of the Amagansett East Association, representing 325 residences, said she had received numerous indignant e-mails. Ms. Klopman circulated photos of the neighborhood, including one depicting 17 trucks lining the narrow Jacqueline Drive, “so that a fire truck could not get by,” she said.
Ken Silverman of Marine Boulevard told the board a number of 40-foot trailers were parked in the town lot at Napeague Lane, and cones were placed across the entrance, barring entry.
“There were “at least 400 people at the place,” he said, and “at least 100 to 120 cars parked on side streets and Marine Boulevard,” with work taking place from “dusk to sunup.” On two booms, which he said were 50 feet high, were lights that a production manager told him were 10,000 watts each. “There were a lot of provisions in the town code that weren’t being complied with,” he said.
Town Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc raised questions about the production at the Tuesday meeting. “Frankly, I was quite concerned and appalled that we would be closing off our public road-ends and not allowing the public access to the beaches, both in Montauk and Amagansett,” he said. “If this is what extending the shoulder season means, I am quite concerned, to say the least.”
The speakers received no sympathy from Mr. Wilkinson, nor from Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, both of whom have been unapologetic business supporters.
“I assume that when a movie company is coming to town to take advantage of our bucolic environment, that lights will be involved,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “. . . A sacrifice has to be made.”
“I’d like to see the lights outside of your window,” said Ms. Klopman.
“I lived with that sacrifice for 10 years in Los Angeles, with lights outside my window,” Mr. Wilkinson, a former L.A. resident, yelled. “This is so capricious and silly,” he said later.
Ms. Quigley called the residents bothered by the filming “selfish.” “We have a town that has 4 percent of its land devoted to an ability to earn an income,” Ms. Quigley said, referring to the town’s zoning districts. “One of the ways that people earn money in this town is through the film industry. And I want to point out that earning money is sort of something we have to do.”
“Some people have to be occasionally disturbed by the ability of other people to make a living . . . it can’t always be ‘me, me, me,’ ” she said.
So far this year, the town clerk’s office has issued 38 film permits, for still photography or movie shoots, Fred Overton, the town clerk, said Tuesday. Last year, 29 were issued; in 2011, there were 31.
“This particular one is a complaint because it happened to happen in a neighborhood where there are a lot of complaints,” Ms. Quigley said. She elicited from Ms. Klopman the percentage of her association’s members that are year-round, versus seasonal, residents. The answer was about 40 houses.
Ms. Quigley accused the speakers of engaging in “a political set-up” designed to advance a view that “the Republicans have destroyed the quality of life.”
Ms. Klopman, a Democratic committeewoman, criticized Fred Overton, the town clerk, who is running on the Republican slate for a town board seat, in a letter read aloud to the board, which is also published in today’s Star. “How could the town clerk issue a permit that on its face” allowed violations of town laws? she asked.
Screaming, Ms. Quigley decried “the whole world of creating drama about selfish issues. And you know what?” she told the residents who spoke at the meeting. “I’ve read your letters; your opinions are interesting — selfish.”
“You know what has to stop in this town,” she said, “. . . is groups going after people. They go after, they nitpick, they go through records.”
“It sounds like paranoia to me,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said to her.
At present, film permit issuance is “purely an administrative process,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc, with no town board review required. The clerk forwards permit applications to the town police chief for review of potential traffic and public safety issues and to the town attorney’s office for review of insurance requirements, then issues the permit after those officials sign off.
The Showtime production paid the town a total of $30,100, which included daily filming fees for Sept. 23 to 27 and Sept. 30 to tomorrow, plus $25,000 for police services and $1,200 for beach parking fees.
“I want to make it perfectly clear that this has nothing to do with Fred Overton,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc on Tuesday. He suggested that the board discuss instituting a review process when film permit applications call for extensive activity.
Mr. Overton said he had followed the procedure prescribed in the town code. And, he added, “In this particular case I introduced the location manager to our supervisor. They had a lengthy discussion.”
“This is really about a quality-of-life issue,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “It cuts across politics. Every person in town should be able to expect that they get a quiet night’s sleep in their residential neighborhood.”
Councilwoman Sylvia Overby recalled that when a film crew from the TV show “Royal Pains” sought a permit to film a helicopter flying over Montauk’s Fort Pond Bay, the application was brought to the attention of the board, which turned it down.
“We made a decision as a board,” she said. “Bill didn’t make it by himself; nobody made it by himself.”
“I think it’s a matter of developing a threshold,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc. If filming calls for more than “a certain level of activity,” he said, “then it needs a more thorough review.”
Councilman Dominick Stanzione said that “now that we have established this is not political,” he would be happy to discuss ideas for film permit review policy changes.
Mr. Wilkinson laughed out loud.
“I’d like to see what the threshold is,” he then said to Mr. Van Scoyoc. What is it? A million? A hundred thousand?”
“It’s not for me to decide,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said, suggesting that the people of East Hampton should have a chance to weigh in on what they would tolerate. “I do think that being able to film here is a good thing,” he said. But, he added, a “balance has to be met, between businesses and residents, between visitors and residents. This is our town.”
Mr. Wilkinson said he had visited Beach Hampton during the film shoot, and overheard a woman ask a police officer what was going on. When she learned it was a Showtime project, “She goes, yeah, way to go.” He said the film crew “was inviting the neighbors to breakfast.”
At present, Mr. Overton pointed out, no filming permit is needed for shoots taking place on private property. Perhaps that, said Mr. Van Scoyoc, is “another issue to look at, since it’s a commercial activity.”
Filming, which also took place at the Lobster Roll restaurant on Napeague, the Deep Hollow Ranch in Montauk, and the Cedar Lawn Cemetery in East Hampton, among other sites, is to continue at Ditch Plain beach in Montauk today and tonight.