Last winter and spring, M. Night Shyamalan and his crew descended upon the Rittenhouse-Fitler Square areas several times to film the TV show Servant. Each time film crews took over the neighborhood, I believe the production team treated Philly residents with disrespect and disregard.
For days on end, parking along nearly a dozen blocks would be coned off. Alternative parking was offered on a first-come, first-serve basis; those of us unlucky to get those spots were left circling endlessly. Based on what I saw near my home, the parking spots were often coned off beyond the advertised locations, and for longer durations. During one stretch of filming, I spent $30 a day on Ubers so that I did not have to give up my parking spot.
Each time production crews arrived, massive trucks parked along 22nd Street, engines running for 24 hours a day throughout filming. A portable toilet was set up farther north on 22nd Street, and crew members would congregate outside overnight, their voices carrying into the surrounding homes. And then there was daytime and nighttime filming on Spruce Street. I can only imagine the inconveniences experienced by the residents who lived on that block.
Compounding all of this was the inadequate means of communicating these inconveniences to the locals. Residents were informed via fliers on telephone poles or under windshield wipers. Some homes apparently also received fliers through their mailboxes, but my home never did. Those of us who did not receive fliers were left uninformed. When asked how residents who did not receive fliers were supposed to be informed about the filming days and alternative parking, one of the production’s location managers told me that it was up to “neighbors and word of mouth.”
Season 2 of Servant is slated to start filming on January 24, and I am worried about what will happen to my neighborhood.
It is not the neighborhood residents’ responsibility to inform each other about the inconveniences being imposed upon us. It is the responsibility of Uncle George Productions, the production company behind Servant, and that of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office (GPFO). I had hopes, based upon conversations I had with apologetic GPFO staffers, who agreed that things had been handled poorly and things would get better.
But it is already off to a bad start.
Last week, a meeting was hosted by Uncle George Productions to discuss ways to make the filming a more positive experience for the neighborhood. Unfortunately, it was announced by fliers. No announcements on social media. GPFO says that fliers were also delivered to homes, but my home didn’t receive one.
According to GPFO, at the meeting, it was announced that future information about the production would be posted on the Next Door app and that the production would use an email program to spread information digitally. Neighbors who attended the meeting signed up to be on the list and were encouraged to tell their absent neighbors to do the same. Again, I will repeat that it is not neighborhood residents’ responsibility to inform each other about these inconveniences.
Given Shyamalan’s history of filming in Philadelphia, I can only assume his production company is familiar with how to interact with neighborhood residents. Uncle George Productions is an extension of M. Night Shyamalan himself so he must shoulder the blame for the disrespect shown to residents of Fitler Square.
Lindsay Kuo has lived near Fitler Square for the last six years and works in North Philadelphia.