Burbank Permit for X-Rated Film Stirs Image Issue
October 27, 1994, Vivien Lou Chen, Los Angeles Times
BURBANK — In a city that flaunts its ties to the entertainment industry, police clerk Norma Brolsma didn't think twice about granting a permit to yet another filmmaker wanting to shoot in Burbank.
What Brolsma said she did not know was that the scenes were for an X-rated movie involving oral copulation and intercourse at the city's water and power plant.
The shoot for Fantasy Chamber by Ultimate Video production company last weekend alarmed some plant employees who said they arrived at the plant Sunday morning to see sexual gymnastics involving groups of two and three actors.
"That's not the type of image we want for the city," said Ron Stassi, general manager of the city's Public Services Department, who fielded several complaints from his employees. "The risk is (that) it will reflect unfavorably on our department or city."
Stassi's concern was shared by City Manager Bud Ovrom, but not by Police Chief Dave Newsham, who said he saw nothing wrong with his department's handling of the application. Brolsma said she was aware nudity would be involved in the filming.
Ovrom said the permit "slipped through the cracks."
"I don't think it's something that should have happened," Ovrom said. "But it's not a major crisis. We'll find a procedure to correct it in the future."
Burbank's policy for granting film permits--now limited to determining how many people are in the cast and crew, whether special effects or stunts will be done and if interior or exterior shots are needed--will be reviewed, city officials said.
"The city, as an entity, has no policy regarding what kind of filming goes on. It may even be censorship," Newsham said. "The Police Department, in issuing a permit, is ensuring safety considerations are being met."
The power plant has been used for filming episodes from the movie "Thelma and Louise" and another motion picture starring Hulk Hogan. Burbank issues permits for filming 175 to 200 productions each year.
Brothers Nick and Anthony Pinkowski, who operate Ultimate Video in Chatsworth, said they made it clear to the Burbank Police Department they were in the adult-entertainment business.
"Fantasy Chamber" refers to a sensory-deprivation tank in the movie that enables anyone who steps inside it to visualize sexual fantasies. Burbank's water and power plant on North Lake Street seemed to be the perfect spot to film, the brothers said.
"We never, ever, ever, ever, ever--and I will say that double emphatically--shoot (X-rated movies) without having permission, without being up front about it," said Nick Pinkowski.
The firm is one of a number of X-rated filmmakers in the San Fernando Valley, a center of the national pornographic film industry.
"I hope you don't feel you have to take a shower after seeing one of our movies," said Pinkowski. "It's geared for females and couples."
Two workers who asked not to be identified said they saw an actress leaning against a motorcycle having sex with two men at once when the employees reported to work Sunday morning. Several other actors looked on and masturbated, the employees said.
"I guess they got to film it somewhere," said one employee. "But it's different than if you spend $20 on a nudie bar and are pretty well liquored up and don't care what's going to happen. It's different than coming stone sober to work. It shouldn't occur in the workplace."
The permit obtained by Ultimate Video enabled the company to use the plant grounds from 5 p.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday.
In recent years, Burbank has tried to give filmmakers as little trouble as possible in issuing film permits, Brolsma said.
"We've always been friendly. We make it easy for them," she said. "If they want it in a day, we try to get it for them."