There's More the Paramount Than Pictures

Paramount Pictures has released many great movies, but the studio is not as bestowing when it comes to privacy and security.

During a recent media tour in Anaheim, Calif., our bus driver commented that he has never seen the doors thrown wide open for anyone, much less a group of trade journalists. In fact, we were even accused of working for the CIA. Truth is, none of us looked like field agents for any intelligence agency, but it sure was fun to drive through the front gates of Paramount with no questions asked.

Like any other business, Paramount needs its privacy, despite the hundreds of guests that enter the property each day. Clint Hilbert, vice president of the studio's environmental health, safety and security department, said the environment at Paramount Pictures changes quickly. He said safety and security are things they have to focus on not only for the sake of the studio, but also for clients who might be filming on site.

So, for example, when Ford Motor Co. wanted to film a commercial with a few remaining contestants of American Idol, it had to be completed secretly.

Paramount Pictures takes up 62 acres on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Studio executives have contracted outside armed officers to protect the premises, using security on the perimeter of the property, along with networked cameras. Issues associated with security at Paramount are rather unique. There is, of course, theft and traffic, but security officers also have to deal with stalkers. There also are a number of movie premieres during which movie stars come on the property to appear or host an event.

Louis Lam, the executive director of security services, has a great passion for show business security and seems to enjoy every moment of every day making sure security is paramount.

"Sometimes I have to pinch myself just to make sure that I'm working here," Lam said. "Variety keeps the job interesting, and everyday there is something different." "Who wouldn't have fun working at a movie studio?"

I thought while I sat on the bench used in the filming of Forrest Gump. I soon learned that the movie stars are regular people going to work just like you and me. It's Lam's job to keep them safe and secure while they're on the movie lots.

"The success of excellent security comes by using concentric rings of security on the property," Lam said. "We don't compromise anywhere in fulfilling our duty as security officers. Set crews know they need to be identified and badged in order to have permission to get on a set. Simply walking into a studio isn't going to happen without security raising an eyebrow."

Rick Madrid, an investigator with security and emergency services, also takes his duties seriously. He is part of a team that scans the black market for bootlegged movies. They watch for people whose only goal is to pirate a premier film and sell it outside of normal channels.

"During a pre-release of a movie, we often have officers in the theater wearing night-vision goggles looking for people who want to pirate an early version of a film," Madrid said. "These kind of movies get bootlegged overseas and sold for lots of money."

Security officers at Paramount liaison with local, state and federal officials to combat movie piracy. To use a well-known Hollywood phrase, Madrid said, "we always get our man" and for the most part, are able to stop piracy.

There are numerous facets to security on the movie studio lot. One of the most challenging security issues is keeping the alleyways clear during filming. There are 30 stages in use nearly every day, and the philosophy of "concentric rings of security" is an important part of the overall security plan. Security officers also must collaborate with central casting to obtain a list of extras for films and daily programs.

"We also work closely with each set crew to ensure they are badged to get onto the lot," Lam said. "This also applies to security operations on a closed set where filming is taking place inside a building or on the streets of the movie studio."

The final security measure is foot patrols that check every building, every night. And last but certainly not least, are security efforts in the studio's mailroom. After 9/11, all mail was checked and given a thorough examination. Things have calmed down a bit since then, but mailroom security still remains on alert.

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