In 1993, current FilmL.A. Vice President of Permit Operations Donna Washington left her job as a social worker for the County of Los Angeles to accept a position as a film and video permit coordinator for the City of Los Angeles’ Motion Picture and Television Division, under the Board of Public Works.
When the City and County of Los Angeles merged and privatized their respective film permit offices in 1995, Donna was one of two employees from the City to staff the newly-created film permit office, which became FilmL.A. Donna’s longevity and intimate knowledge about all facets of on-location film production have led some to call her the “Permit Queen”.
But that might not have been so. As a former public-sector employee on loan to the film office, Donna had a two-year window to decide whether to remain in the private sector or accept a position elsewhere in City government.
“The City offered me a job running a campaign for recycling used motor oil,” said Donna. “I had no interest in being the Motor Oil Queen,” she added.
Today, Donna oversees FilmL.A.’s ten permit coordinators, who in 2007 were responsible for the processing and coordination of nearly 9,500 permits for filming at more than 26,000 locations, for a total of nearly 55,000 annual days of production.
The process of film permit coordination has changed significantly since the pre-FilmL.A. days. “Back then, we were a small office trying desperately to get permits out the door as quickly as possible and at all cost,” Donna recalled. “The current process has evolved to include greater recognition of the needs of neighborhoods. We truly do try to balance the needs of filmmakers with those of residents and business owners.”