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Thread: Planners in movies

  1. #1
    Member Cullen's avatar
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    Planners in movies

    I was thinking about it last night, I can't really think of many times when there is a person in a movie who is doing something in the planning related field. I think this sort of thing can really influence the popularity and profile of planning as a profession, as well as the study of all the related disciplines.

    I can think of the character in "singles" (the seattle film of the early 1990's) who was proposing a big train. Also, luke wilsons character in "old school" was a real estate lawyer, sorta close almost. Also, sunshine state is all about the land development process and its impact on a town and all that. A main character is a landscape architect, also sorta close almost. Wow I came up with three already, I guesss there are more than I expected.

    What other movies can you think of that feature planners as main characters?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    We've explored this topic under the guise of planning-related movies.

    In "Quick Change," Bill Murray's character worked at the NY City Planning Department (it wasn't clear to me if he was a planner or not, but the mere mention of the dept was enough for most of us).
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I don't know of any but I think you're right about its effect on the popularity of the profession. They say that the number of Archaelogy and Paleantology spiked after Raiders of the Lost Ark and Friends respectively.

    The flip side would be a movie with an evil "pointy headed" planner (Gary Cole of Office Space) trying to take the hero's (Robin Williams) land.

    A sample scene would go something like this with a bearded Robin Williams in a historic town hall, clutching a fistfull of dirt which seeps from between his fingers:

    "Land! . . . This land . . . is all we have! Without this land we are nothing but dirt ourselves. The people of Elmdale have had enough. Mayor, is this what you want the children to remember? Will the sight of our children being forced from their homes be the legacy of Elmdale?" [applause]


    I've written 550 pages so far today, does anyone have a good agent?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    The planning profession is definitely under-represented in film. Guess it could be attributed to our profession not having much in the way of car chases, explosions and rampant gunplay. Guess we cannot expect to see Arnold as "The Zoning Administrator." Or an exciting film play about long range planning - Harrison Ford is "The Long Ranger".

    Don't expect to see a film where any of those dewy-eyed, breast-heaving starlets get their panties in a bunch over a mid-level, doughy planner pulling down a whopping $35,000 a year.

    I had a friend who was a planner in San Francisco and he said he had a Hollywood-type who was looking for a good storyline to pitch to the moguls. The guy followed him around for a while and ask him lots of questions. But the guy lost interest pretty soon.

    I do remember that on the TV show "thirty-something" they had a storyline where one of the women was dating a city planner.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    What is even worse than being under-represented is when you are watching a good movie and they start talking about zoning in a way that you know is wrong in real life. Such as in 'Old School' where the single family house that they are renting was zoned for university uses and so they have to start a fraternity. In reality, the single family use would very likely be grandfathered or at the very least have a very long period for compliance.

    I watched another movie recently with a city planner as a main character, but now I can't remember the name of the movie. Doh!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Charles Bronson was an architect in Death Wish.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Belle's avatar
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    Originally posted by nerudite
    What is even worse than being under-represented is when you are watching a good movie and they start talking about zoning in a way that you know is wrong in real life. Such as in 'Old School' where the single family house that they are renting was zoned for university uses and so they have to start a fraternity. In reality, the single family use would very likely be grandfathered or at the very least have a very long period for compliance.
    Glad I wasn't the only person annoyed by that. I am such a nerd.

    I wish there were more movies with planners, perhaps then we wouldn't get the blank stare or the "can you install a stoplight on my block?" when people ask us what we do.

  8. #8
    maudit anglais
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    Rumour has it that Jeff has starred in several feature length films, but not as a planner

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Originally posted by otterpop
    The planning profession is definitely under-represented in film. Guess it could be attributed to our profession not having much in the way of car chases, explosions and rampant gunplay. . .
    I don't know - some of people's stories on here would make an exciting movie. Donk's redneck animal threats, Pete Rock being chased by gangsters, lots of crazy site visits. Most professions are boring if you follow some average guy all day (like me).

    As an offshoot, our housing inspectors have stories to tell about roaches and horrible half-dressed women that would sure make an interesting movie.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Seabishop, ANY movie involving ANY profession, can't show the dull parts of the job... unless you want to make a boring movie...

    Cop movies never show the dull office work or boring night patrols with nothing interesting to show. So the lack of movies with planners as main characters isn't because the profession is boring... all jobs can be boring sometimes. In sci-fi movies you don't see scientists doing hour-long experiments... so in movies with planners you can't show a planner drawing a comp plan or in a council meeting...

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Maybe we should approach FOX or UPN about a "Planners" show similar to "Cops."

  12. #12
    Cyburbian SlaveToTheGrind's avatar
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    Somewhat related from a movie I like:

    Carl (River Phoenix) in Sneakers - "It's fascinating what fifty bucks can get you at the county recorder's office." In reference to obtaining building blueprints for a building they wanted to break into.

  13. #13

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    There are TONS of planning-related documentaries out there, though, and most are pretty interesting (to me at least)!

    Might the lack of hollywood attention to our field have something to do with the fact that many, many people have no idea there is such a thing?

    Here's a sample conversation I've had:

    "What do you go to school for?"
    "Urban planning"
    long silence. "Like, putting in trees and bushes and stuff?"
    "No, Planning, not PLANTING - planning and directing the growth of a city - zoning and stuff."
    "Oh." long silence. "You mean, that's a job someone does?"
    "Yeah, how do you think things get built and taken care of in a city?"
    "I don't know, I guess I never thought about it. I thought it just...well...happened."

    You get the picture. And this is not one isolated instance, it happens all the time, with people who really ought to know better. And many of those who do know what planners are have bad notions of them as land-stealers, communists, or beaurocrats (or worse).

    So, perhaps the reason there are few planners in movies is because few people would identify with or be compassionate for a planner character in a movie.

    But I do think there could be a wicked good movie made with all the funny stories I've heard on this forum!!!

  14. #14
    Member Cullen's avatar
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    hey I just thought of one more movie that is actually pretty exciting that has a lot to do with planning - Chinatown. The whole premise revolves around water resources in southern california in the 1930's or 40's when LA is growing. It stars Jack Nicholson, its a really good film noir / detective flick.

    it really does include planning in this whole dramitic situation in a really interesting way.

  15. #15
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Architects are easy...

    Originally posted by gkmo62u
    Charles Bronson was an architect in Death Wish.
    Tom Hanks - Sleepless in Seattle
    Richard Gere - Intersection
    Steve Martin - Housesitter
    Kevin Kline - Life as a House
    Rob Lowe - Living in Peril
    Michelle Pfeiffer - One Fine Day
    Tom Selleck - 3 men and a Baby
    Warren Beatty - Town & Country

    Even the late John Ritter did one in "Colony"...

    Those are the famous (Or almost famous in Lowe's case) actors I can remember playing one. Planners? Heh... We get almost no play...

    The Secret World of Michael Fry (2000) is about it.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    C'mon and get me you twist of fate
    I'm standing right here Mr. Destiny
    If you want to talk well then I'll relate
    If you don't so what cause you don't scare me

  16. #16
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Originally posted by SlaveToTheGrind
    Somewhat related from a movie I like:

    Carl (River Phoenix) in Sneakers - "It's fascinating what fifty bucks can get you at the county recorder's office." In reference to obtaining building blueprints for a building they wanted to break into.
    Sneakers is a great flick... My favorite part is at the end when Carl asks for the "girl with the uzi's phone numebr" and James Earl Jones says no.

    Martin Bishop: How about a lunch? You can chaperone.
    Mr. Bernard Abbott: No, I will not do this.
    Martin Bishop: Hey, Abby, Abby, come on, now the F.B.I.'d give him twins!
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    C'mon and get me you twist of fate
    I'm standing right here Mr. Destiny
    If you want to talk well then I'll relate
    If you don't so what cause you don't scare me

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Trail Nazi's avatar
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    I was in a couple of movies, so does that count as a planner in a movie?

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Originally posted by Trail Nazi
    I was in a couple of movies, so does that count as a planner in a movie?
    Only if you were quoting the Comp Plan as part of your dialogue...

  19. #19
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Michael Fry (Bremner) is a town planner and single father of a one- year-old baby, living in a small Welsh seaside town, where he is asked to close down a hotel on the grounds that it is breaking fire regulations. When the police turn up to help him accomplish this task, Mr Fry discovers that the hotel is covering for an internet sex den, run by a pimp (Kitchen). Having helped rescue one of the porn actresses (a plain and vulnerable Rosie Marcel), he begins an unlikely relationship with her. He also discovers that the closure of the hotel is linked to some dodgy deal being planned by his boss (Pugh), into which not only he, his porn actress and his baby have been dragged, but also his parents, whose Polish roots become ever more significant. When Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, rugby union and male voice choirs enter the plot, there is a whiff of involvement by the Welsh tourist board: thrilling, chilling, or simply sloppy writing?
    Yup. Typical day in a planner's life.

    Hey someone thinks it's a cool career, though.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  20. #20
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    Originally posted by Dan
    Hey someone thinks it's a cool career, though.
    Whoooo hoooo a masters degreee and a starting range of $29K. Makes you feel all warm inside.

  21. #21
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    "entry-level jobs require a masterís degree"

    So how did I get so far with just BA and some UC Extension courses? I feel so dirty now...ashamed even.
    I think that one of the great signs of security is the ability to just walk away.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Trail Nazi's avatar
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    Originally posted by Zoning Goddess
    Only if you were quoting the Comp Plan as part of your dialogue...

    Wait a minute, I did recite Code in the County's public service announcement that was aired on tv.

  23. #23
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Wow, I went to start a new thread and discover that someone beat me to the punch almost four years ago! That's okay, I'll just stand on the shoulders of those Giants who came before us

    Anyone got any suggestions for a new movie script featuring a planner as the protagonist or having a planning related theme?

    Drama - could there actually be something serious and dramatic enough to make a movie about here?

    Adventure - perhaps a shootout scene with a Wal-mart acquisitions rep ?

    Romance - Can you already hear the trailer?....'he worked for Beelzebub & Associates and she worked for the city of Jonesburg; spirited discussions about stormwater easements turned into spirited discussions about access easements in the bedroom....'

    Comedy - this seems way too easy (see adventure and romance) but I'll ask anyway!

    Sci Fi or Western???? (again nothing but comedy potential comes to mind)

  24. #24
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    WHile not a movie, Judd HIrsch supposedly is a planner in the CBS show Numb3rs. When he has actually has dialogue related to his job, it sounds more like he's an engineer.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cullen View post
    hey I just thought of one more movie that is actually pretty exciting that has a lot to do with planning - Chinatown.
    Along those lines is Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which is about a scheme to dismatle the Red Car network and build a system of freeways in its place. They don't actually show the planners who developed the plan though, just the evil developers who want to implement it.

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