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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 15 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 33
Porn industry tries to evade safety regulations
Section One
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Porn industry tries to evade safety regulations

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Porn producers are fleeing their traditional center in Los Angeles to evade new safety regulations, a film industry report suggests. On the contrary, AIDS activists reply, porn producers are simply shifting to illegal unpermitted films.

According to FilmLA Inc., the non-profit that handles film permits for LA City and County, permit applications for X-rated films dropped 90% to a mere 40 films in 2013. Only 20 permits have been issued so far this year.

The huge drop in applications follows a 2012 LA County ordinance requiring porn actors to use condoms during filming.

'We've seen a dramatic drop in permits,' said FilmLA President Paul Audley. 'It is a cause for concern that people who are manning the cameras, lights and other things on those sets are not working anymore.... It's not helpful to have another segment of the industry leave the region.'

'Losing an industry like that is going to have hugely negative consequences,' said Stuart Waldman, President of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association.

'We're not just talking about actors or the filmmakers, but everyone from the grips and caterers to assistants,' Waldman added. 'These are people who live in the San Fernando Valley, buy homes, cars, send their kids to school and go to the dry cleaners. If they move, all the money goes with them.'

While porn accounts for less than 5% of all film permits, local economists have estimated that the porn industry in LA County racked up $4 billion in annual sales and generates 10,000 to 20,000 jobs annually.

As many as 5,000 adult films were shot in Los Angeles venues in 2011, according to industry estimates.

LA County's Measure B, the law requiring condom use, was passed by voters after several well-publicized cases of porn actors testing positive for HIV and other STDs.

California Assembly member Isadore Hall III, sponsor of a bill to establish the condom requirement statewide, says that the law is necessary to protect performers from sexually transmitted diseases.

'It's not that the industry is being targeted,' Hall said. 'The industry is being asked to protect their employees and provide them workplace protection.'

Hall's bill passed the California Assembly in May, and is expected to come up for a vote in the state Senate this month.

Porn producers say LA's safety regulations make filming there too 'complex.'

'We're not shooting in LA anymore,' said Steven Hirsch, founder and co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment. 'We'd like to stay here. This is our home, where we've produced for the last 30 years. But if we're forced to move, we will.'

Penthouse Entertainment has stopped all LA film shoots. The company says it owns 10 TV channels and produces up to 80 movies a year.

'This month we're shooting 10 movies in Brazil,' said Kelly Holland, Managing Director for the company. 'Last month, we shot five movies in Europe. It's just too complex to shoot here [in LA].'

Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which backed Measure B, says porn producers are not leaving LA, they are just shooting unpermitted films to evade safety regulations.

'There is no question people are filming without permits,' Weinstein said. 'We're not against porn. We're not trying to drive them out of business. We want to protect the performer and we want them to be a safe industry like any other industry.'

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