Photo of car with driver idling engine in the street.
Film crew drivers idling their 14-year-old diesel engines is not a good advert for the industry or Camden Council’s Film Office.

Camden Council has always been a bit hopeless with environmental matters. It’s policies look good on paper. But in Fitzrovia it’s all a dysfunctional mess.

Its Film Office which hands out permission, it seems, to anyone who wants to take a few moving images in the streets in exchange for a fee, is a case in point. It’s a disaster B-movie.

What is supposed to happen is that the film crews engage with residents, send out letters and put up notices well in advance about any filming and street closures. This is laid down by Camden’s Film Office as a condition of filming.

But in practice it is haphazard. Some film crews are better than others, and some just show total contempt. But Camden Film office seems to let them get away with it. An apology and the promise of a few hundred quid to a local charity after filming has ended is all that gets done.

This morning’s shit show in the pouring rain on Charlotte Street and Tottenham Street was a fine example of what residents have to put up with all too often.

Fitzrovia is in an air pollution control area within ULEZ. But today internal combustion engine generators were running and a man in charge of a road closure was happily sitting in his 2007 Ford diesel car fiddling with his phone while running the engine.

After 20 minutes of him adding to local nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter I politely asked him turn his engine off. He refused. I asked if he would mind if I took a photograph of his vehicle to report him to Camden Council. He indicated that he could not give a fuck.

And so I phoned Camden Film Office and made a complaint about the driver and about the total lack of street notices about filming in my street. The woman on the phone tried to be helpful but couldn’t find any record of a film permission except for something booked in for next Tuesday.

I reminded her that today is Saturday. “Perhaps they are setting up early?” she offered.

Without permission? I asked.

After more tapping on a computer keyboard she offered to have someone ring me back.

In the meantime the driver was happily sitting in his 14-year-old diesel and still running the engine. This went on for at least 90 minutes before he turned it off. Either my complaint had got back to him or he’d run out of fuel.

Around the corner in Charlotte Street there was a least one petrol-powered generator rattling away on the pavement.

I met a neighbour of mine who told me he only discovered about the filming the day before. Another neighbour said that someone had spoken to him earlier in the week and he had a letter somewhere.

A few weeks ago another neighbour of mine had complained to the Film Office about unannounced filming in Charlotte Street and having to push past crew members who had blocked his front door with themselves and their equipment.

On both these occasions there was no advance notice in the Camden New Journal about road closures and filming (along with all other notices about planning, licensing and road closures). No notice on lampposts. No email to any of the local community groups. Just a haphazard distribution of some bits of paper and a hand-written note scrawled on a road sign dumped on the pavement as a trip hazard.

The presence of film crews outside people’s homes has been a consistent source of complaint in recent years, reported the Camden New Journal a few years ago. In Fitzrovia residents in Fitzroy Square, Grafton Way and Warren Street had to put up with weeks on end of diesel generators rumbling away belching out fumes.

In July 2019 the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association expressed concern about noise nuisance and pollution from power generation overnight in Charlotte Street and Percy Street.

Nothing has changed.

Eventually the Film Office rang me back. I got an apology but little in the way of any assurance that it would not happen again to me or any of my neighbours in Fitzrovia.

I followed up with an email with the following advice for the Film Office.

Your office must pull its finger out and do the following:

Make it a condition of filming that no ICE generators are used in Fitzrovia.

Make it a condition that no drivers are to idle their engines.

Filming and street closures must be announced at least a week in advance by notices on lampposts, by letter drops to all nearby residents, announcements in the local press (ie Camden New Journal). All street notices to be removed after completion of filming.

A courtesy email sent to:
Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association
Charlotte Street Association
Fitzrovia News
The Fitzrovia Partnership (Business group)

Make all the above contractual obligations with a penalty for any breaches.
All filming and street closures must also be listed on Camden’s Film Fixer Website and on Camden Council’s website. This list must be kept up to date and with a phone and email contact so that residents can contact the film crew. This list must be clearly accessible not buried in the depth of some flakey website.

If I think of anything else I will let you know.