On Location: LAUSD puts celebrity chef Jamie Oliver on no-film diet
The Los Angeles Unified School District has suspended all filming of reality TV shows in district schools after a standoff with the celebrity chef, who had been filming his ABC show "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" at West Adams Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles for the last two weeks.
This week the district denied Oliver's license to film at another school, Manual Arts Senior High School, which, like West Adams, is operated by MLA Partners Schools, an organization that runs schools in South L.A. under a performance contract with LAUSD.
A person close to the production said that district Supt. Ramon Cortines would approve the permit for Oliver's show only if he could guarantee that he knew everything about the production and that it would paint the district in a postive light.
A spokesman for FilmL.A. Inc, the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the LAUSD, said the district's action was prompted not by any specific complaints regarding Oliver's show but by a concern that such reality TV programs can be disruptive to students.
"Yesterday the district decided that having unscripted reality shoots while classes were still in session was probably not the best idea,'' said FilmL.A. spokesman Todd Lindgren. "Reality programming is unpredictable, and the district decided that it was better to restrict that kind of programming."
“If you look at the last series he [Oliver] did in Huntington, W.Va., it was full of conflict and drama, and we’re not interest in that,’’ LAUSD spokesman Robert Alaniz said.
He said district officials were concerned that Oliver’s show would not fairly reflect steps LAUSD has taken to improve its menus, such as banning junk food and sodas. “Our guidelines are certainly way above the USDA guidelines," he said, adding the district remained opening to working with the chef.
Oliver, who has championed the cause of promoting healthier eating in schools in Britain and now America, recently moved to Los Angeles and is filming the second season of ABC's "Food Revolution." He has been trying for months to gain entry into the country's second-largest school system, but he has received a cold reception from district officials.
Oliver was not available for comment. But a spokeswoman for the show said the production would continue outside the school, regardless of the in-school ban.
In a speech at the UCLA School of Public Health on Wednesday night, Oliver said he had been inspired by his experiences at West Adams Preparatory and shared his frustration with district officials.
"Yesterday my filming permit was terminated because I can't promise that the LAUSD doesn't look good,'' he said. "They fail to see me as a positive, and they fail to see the TV as an incredible way to spread the word, to inspire people, to inform parents, to see other teachers doing pioneering things.'
Although many local schools generate extra cash by leasing out their facilities for filming, some reality productions have irked school officials. Last year, officials at Hollenbeck Middle School complained about having to spend more than $100,000 to fix a substandard paint job left behind by the TV show "School Pride."
-- Richard Verrier
Photo: Jamie Oliver works to transform the school lunch program of Central City Elementary School in Hungtington, W.Va., in the ABC show "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Credit: ABC.