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On L.A. Street, It's Not Easy Being Green (For Bikes)


Chances are, even if you have never been to Los Angeles, you have laid eyes on Spring Street. According to some, this downtown street is probably the most filmed roadway in all of L.A. "CSI: New York," the movie "The Help," and numerous car commercials have all been shot on Spring Street. But recently, film crews have had to find another favorite go-to shooting location, and it's all because of one bright green bike lane. To help explain the problem, I'm joined now by Paul Audley. He's the president of Film L.A., which is a nonprofit group that coordinates all of the film shoots around Los Angeles. Paul, thanks so much for talking with us.

PAUL AUDLEY: I'm happy to be with you.

MARTIN: So, first of all, Spring Street. What's so special about it? Why is it so popular for shooting films?

AUDLEY: Well, Spring Street is part of a very small historic core of downtown Los Angeles. And because of its architecture, it can pass for virtually any street in the country in an urban center. It also serves as one of the few locations for period pieces to be shot in the region. And so it's extremely popular, especially for films that are not going to be based in L.A.

MARTIN: So, all of a sudden, there's a movement to put a bike lane on Spring Street. What's been the problem with this?

AUDLEY: Well, the bike lanes themselves are going in all over the city. The problem with Spring Street is that the placement of this highly electric green stripe has taken out its ability to be filmed as Any Street, USA, and has also restricted our ability to place film companies actually on the street.

MARTIN: We know that film crews use the color green all the time. We hear about green screens that help Superman fly and Harry Potter do magic. Why can't they just do the same with a bike lane?

AUDLEY: Well, this is not a Chroma key green that you hear about that they use for green screens. And the electronic process to remove any color from a film can be done. It just means that the film is going to be more expensive to make and will take more time.

MARTIN: And so the fact that film crews can't use this street anymore, has this had an impact on the film industry?

AUDLEY: Yeah, the impact on the industry has really been some of these shows who have been long time using this as their exterior shots, like "CSI: New York." But we've seen between 10 and 15 percent drop-off in filming on Spring Street in this particular neighborhood, which is a lot of filming to leave, since it's the most filmed location. The concern that was raised by us was that the next street proposed was Main Street, which is the other street in historic downtown and is the second-most filmed location. We would have lost everything for downtown for the most part if we hadn't been able to resolve some of the issues, recognizing that there's not much we can do about the green paint on Spring, but keeping it off Main Street will be helpful.

MARTIN: Paul Audley. He's the president of Film L.A. Paul, thanks so much for talking with us.

AUDLEY: You're very welcome.

MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.