A survey of 113 people in film production conducted by the California Film Commission found that half had been hustled for money. Some companies now routinely look for locations outside the state to avoid harassment. "This kind of institutional extortion is very bad for California," said Patti Archuletta, director of the state film commission. "It's bad for business and it has to stop."
One extortionist in central Los Angeles started up a chain-saw whenever the director shouted "Action!". The saw would stop at the shout of "Cut !" and fell permanently silent after the man was handed several hundred dollars. Other ploys to disrupt the film business for cash include banging on buckets, shining lights and pelting the crew with stones.
"It's gotten to the point where at almost every shoot people blow their horns, walk through shots, make their dogs bark or crank their stereos," says Herschel Rosenthal, one of the state senator's sponsoring the bill.
One shop manager refused to turn down his booming stereo near a production set even after police ordered him to move on. Eventually the film company gave up.
"Warner Brothers called up saying they were held up for $500 by a man with a bucket and ladle." said Ms Archuletta.
Two separate bills have been introduced to halt the practice by allowing licensed security guards to fine offenders up to $500. However some see the problem as an expression of anger.
"You see a lot of production crews who are very arrogant and they just say: 'Get out of our way. We're bulldozing through, blockading your street and trampling your bushes'," says Robert Picard, a communications professor at the University of California.