Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hip-Hop To The County Jail

The State of Illinois is always happy when a Hollywood production comes to town. Locals get jobs on the set, and their wages feed funds into the union coffers which then are spilled into campaign coffers and so the world spins around.

Note to said production companies and staff: When filming in Cook County Jail, do not bring drugs with you. And if you have a warrant out for your arrest, it is likely to be acted on and you may not walk out as easily as you walked in.

FYI. For next time.

Lee Daniels of THE BUTLER fame is in Chicago these days to film his new hip-hop themed drama. Hip-hop being what it is, he had to bring his crew to the jail to film some scenes for EMPIRE, which will air on Fox.

The jail being what it is, every single person who Mr. Daniels brought to the set had to be thoroughly investigated and searched. It's not like they were walking onto a soundstage or something. They were working at a real, functioning prison with real, incarcerated criminals who would very much like to get their hands on some contraband. This would include marijuana, for personal consumption or trade.

One crewmember drove in and did not realize that the marijuana in his car could get him in trouble. With all this talk of legalizing the drug, and with weed essentially legal in California, it's easy to see how such a mistake could have been made. The gentleman was promptly arrested for possession, and can't you just imagine the disruption to the shooting schedule that he caused? Time is money, people, and losing a worker does nothing but cost the production company money.

The smoker was later released, which suggests he was holding a very small amount of pot. A recent change in the law lets the cops give someone a ticket rather than jail time, which helps County Jail keep down the inmate population while gaining some much needed funding.

As for the outstanding warrant, that particular employee may have thought the domestic battery charge was long forgotten. It had been over ten years since he failed to show up for court-ordered supervision. Ten years since a warrant had been issued for his arrest. He probably forgot it himself. It isn't as if a small, local police force is going to make a lot of effort to track down someone on a relatively minor charge.

But when you're trying to enter the jail, for work-related issues, you should be advised that all those past indiscretions crop up. Everything is tied together on the world's computers these days. So if you have an outstanding warrant, you'll be arrested.

And he was. Arrested. Which meant the production crew was shorthanded with no hope of replacing the crewmember without experiencing an expensive delay.

The State of Illinois hopes very much that Mr. Daniels understands, and won't go tell his Hollywood friends that the area is unwelcoming to the film industry. The high costs of doing business in Illinois already say that loudly. No need to add another decibel.

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