Photo by Laurie Buenafe Krsmanovic. Artwork by Sirron Norris.

Last week, we implied that the Netflix’s new series filming in the iconic, but often fraught, terrain of Clarion Alley might cause alarm among the alley’s stewards, the Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP). Turns out, CAMP has an agreement with the producers of the new Netflix show Sense 8 and they’ll be squarely compensated for artwork appearing on-screen.

According to Megan Wilson, one of CAMP’s artists and organizers, before starting production Netflix’s producers approached the artists whose work they hoped to use as scenic design. After some persuading, and negotiating a contract, CAMP agreed to let the series directed by the Wachowski siblings, Lana and Andy,  use the famed alley.

“Initially we weren’t interested and so we connected them [with the SF Film Commission] to help find another location,” wrote Wilson in an email to Mission Local. “However, they really wanted to work with CAMP so the producers gave us more info and after learning more about the series and negotiating compensation for the artists and CAMP with them through our lawyer, we signed on to work with them.”

Wilson says that CAMP is usually “very selective” about who they collaborate with, but after producers explained that the series will prominently feature a transgender character, the arts non-profit felt like the project would be a good fit with their values and mission.

Which artists will be paid and how much depends on the amount of time their work appears in the final cut of the show. Wilson wouldn’t go into detail about the asking rate, but explains they’ll have a better idea in the fall when the series is in post production.

As might be expected of a deal made with a living art project that’s long been invested in the politics of identity and representation, the contract comes with some unique clauses.

“In addition to payment, one of the conditions that was agreed to was that they couldn’t use actors portraying themselves to be working on the murals as the artist(s) since that would degrade the integrity of CAMP,” wrote Wilson. “The murals and the artist(s) – making Clarion Alley appear to be a set for their work versus a living space of our work that we’re letting them use to create a scene within.”

Besides this singular stipulation, agreements between local muralists and film companies using their murals is not uncommon in San Francisco, according to San Francisco Film Commission production manager Lauren Machado.

“We do a lot of work to connect producers with artists,” said Machado. “We don’t get involved in contracts or fees… we’re basically the connecting source and we’ll help and sit down with both parties if they need help finding a happy balance.”

Machado says that ultimately it’s the artists decision if they want their work to appear on film. If an artist doesn’t want a film crew using their canvas—which has happened on more than one occasion—the Film Commission helps the production find a new locale.

“That’s just part of our work, we want to attract productions, but also we want to accommodate neighborhoods,” said Machado. “We play a very fine line, it’s like a choreographed dance, to make sure all sides are happy.”

For this particular TV show, the reviews—measured by relative neighborhood ire—seem positive.

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Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top of Bernal Hill.

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