To shoot, or not to shoot that was the question pondered Wednesday night by the City Council, as they deferred until Oct. 18 a movie company's request to film a Rob Schneider / Adam Sandler comedy later this month near Sonoma Plaza.
The council and much of the assembled public appeared willing to approve the idea, which could shut down parts of First Street East and East Napa Street for a total of three days between Oct. 29 to Nov. 4. But they balked at being rushed into making a premature decision without first being clear about what they were approving.
"You're in a very close time limit, but that doesn't mean we have to go along with it," Councilmember Al Mazza told filmmakers, saying he wanted to see maps and schedules first and a chance for all affected merchants to voice their concerns.
At issue is Elle Pictures' plan to create a street fair for its new movie, "The Animal," featuring Schneider as a well-meaning but bumbling police officer who receives various animal-organ transplants which enable him to "run like a cheetah and swim like a dolphin," said Elle representative Molly Allen.
"He senses a purse snatcher and runs over the Earth Day fair," she said, describing the proposed Sonoma scene. "... I need to put a crane in the street to hang him from, and bounce him over the cars."
Allen said the shoot would call for 200 local extras, as well as benefiting local restaurants and businesses. She also said the mock fair would be open for business to Sonoma residents.
However, she acknowledged that the street-closure had changed somewhat between its Sept. 28 submission and this week's meeting, and that not all of the area business owners had yet been contacted.
Eight such merchants spoke up, some completely favoring the idea but most wondering what the impact would be on their businesses and whether that could be mitigated.
"There's a good chance it could help our business, but there's a good chance it'll shut our business down for three days," said Larry Murphy, who owns Murphy's Irish Pub on First Street East.
Police Chief John Gurney, whose officers would be used for traffic control during the shoot, estimated that it would cost 116 hours overtime some $9,000. He added that with two vacancies at the police department, "I'd be concerned about having my folks out so they wouldn't be able to perform their regular duties."
County film commissioner Catherine DePrima said she "definitely feel(s) strongly that well over 50 percent want to do it," adding that "sweeteners are in the works" but time was of the essence.
"If we have to let it go for a couple of weeks, they will find another location," DePrima said.
But Councilmember Phyllis Carter said that before the panel could approve the plan, filmmakers would first have to work with city staff, including City Manager Pam Gibson.
"If she's not comfortable," Carter added, "it's not going to come back to us."
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