First in a series
EXCLUSIVE: Downtown developer Tom Gilmore was irate. “What’s this goddamn thing here I had to pay for?” he fumed. It was noontime, June 16, and L.A.’s powerful downtown developer stood on the corner of 4th and Main Street accosting a FilmLA monitor as a crew arrived. The monitor tried to assure Gilmore that the commercial shoot would be fast and there’d be no disruption to his businesses, but Gilmore wasn’t buying it.
“I know what you’ve done for the neighborhood,” the monitor said as the crew set up to grab a quick shot outside Pete’s Café and Bar, one of Gilmore’s restaurants. “And I’m grateful. You know I’m grateful.”
“I appreciate that and I’m not mad at you,” Gilmore said, lowering his voice slightly amid the clamor of lunch-hour traffic. “I’m expressing my pissed-off-ness that this thing got OK’d today.”
“This thing” was a Just For Men TV spot in the Old Bank District, which is Gilmore’s turf. Almost singlehandedly, he’d turned it from Skid Row-adjacent to a thriving area of shops, restaurants and residential lofts. Gilmore Associates, widely credited with spearheading the residential boom in downtown Los Angeles, owns numerous properties down there: the stately old Farmers and Merchants Bank; the 12-story Continental and six-story Hellman buildings, which were converted into lofts; an elegant old Catholic church that he turned into a premiere events site; and the historic San Fernando building, with 70 loft-style apartments anchored by Pete’s Café and Bäco Mercat on the ground floor.
A city street runs through the district — a street Gilmore, to his unending irritation, doesn’t own and can’t control. It’s a popular spot for filmmakers, one of the few places in L.A. that can convincingly double for older cities like New York or Chicago. More than 150 days of filming are shot there every year. Gilmore can make any one of them tough on properly permitted filmmakers, and on that June day, that’s just what he was doing.
“I am gonna do what I gotta do to make this not such a pretty little place,” Gilmore told the monitor in a tape-recorded conversation obtained by Deadline, “because the only reason you’re using it is cuz we made it such a pretty little place.” Minutes later, Gilmore had his men lean ladders in the doorway of the San Fernando and hang yellow caution tape in the potted trees outside Pete’s Café, ruining the planned shots.
The producers had paid FilmLA more than $1,600 in permit fees, but Gilmore wanted them to pay him, too. His location agent, Richard Wynn, had sent the shoot’s location manager, Jeff McSpadden, a contract and a letter demanding $12,000 for the right to film in the street and on the sidewalk outside the café — both public spaces. Read More »