Pesky Film Crews Don’t Like What They See in the Mirror

Resourceful Morningside Heights residents have come up with a lethal new weapon in their war against intrusive movie crews: the mirror.

Enraged by parking problems caused in their neighborhood by filming of a video for the alternative singer Fiona Apple, a group of Claremont Avenue residents decided to fight back. Their strategy: placing mirrors in their windows to reflect images of cameras and production equipment-thereby ruining all shots along the street.

Simple, elegant and, above all, effective.

At Community Board 9’s meeting on Nov. 20, local residents savored a rare victory over a longtime neighborhood scourge: the snotty directors and snottier film lackeys that regularly take over their streets because-well, because they can .

Residents told the board that a crew working for Propaganda Films, the company filming the video, had broken a bunch of promises about parking. So they devised the mirror scheme. Before long, residents gloated, the film crew was on its knees and had met their every demand. (Propaganda officials had no comment.)

The mirror plan was a measure born of desperation-a weapon hauled out only when gentler tactics had failed. Twice in November, local resident Tom DeMott told The Observer , a production crew had posted “no parking” signs, to be enforced the same day-in violation of city code, which requires two full days of warning. Each time, residents demanded two warning days and insisted on a detailed filming schedule so they could walk their dogs or run to the store without being ordered around by a ponytailed New York University film student with a walkie-talkie.

The crew would murmur promises of compliance, Mr. DeMott said. But then they would quickly revert to their bad old ways.

Film crews for director Spike Lee and for the Sharon Stone vehicle Gloria had made their own little disruptions to neighborhood life in recent weeks, so these latest indignities had residents seething.

“So we devised a plan of resistance,” Mr. DeMott told The Observer .

Soon after, about 25 residents met to plot what Mr. DeMott called “an effective deterrent.” The day before, neighbors had spotted the crew, which ended up taking over the street five days for a few minutes of film, rehearsing a scene to be filmed later that week. The scene called for Ms. Apple to ride a crane down Claremont, creating the illusion that she was flying down the street.

The group conducted guerrilla drills, practicing with a few mirrors to determine which windows were placed for optimum disruptive effect. “We had enough angles covered,” Mr. DeMott said, adding that they had about 15 mirrors in their arsenal. “We were more than ready.”

Finally, when word of their plan reached the company, the crew apparently folded. Residents said crew members met their every demand, supplying detailed information about future no parking and production schedules.

“And we called a truce,” Mr. DeMott said.