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HAWTHORNE, Calif. – Faced with 4,100 square-feet of empty lease space in its new headquarters building, FAA First Federal Credit Union did what any business would do – it catered to the local economy. In Los Angeles, that’s entertainment – and for the past two years, CBS’s top-rated CSI: Miami has regularly filmed part of the series at the credit union. Scenes are filmed using the $270 million, 23,000-member credit union’s edifice and lobby, as well as a studio built in the lease space. “Inside our lease space is their police station studio, where they film all the interrogation scenes,” said Eileen Rivera, FAA First President/CEO. “It’s where they get to play `good cop, bad cop’. “And, I’ve heard that for the new season they’re going to close every episode with a shot of (David) Caruso in front of our building, walking down our stairs and getting into a Hummer,” Rivera said. “I’m excited about that – it makes me proud to see our building look that impressive on TV.” CSI: Miami discovered the FAA First site when scouting a location close to the production’s primary studio, located at Raleigh Studios a few blocks away in nearby Manhattan Beach. The credit union’s unique architecture has attracted other productions, including a print ad for Honda motorcycles and occasional scenes for the Fox drama, The OC. When most businesses entertain the idea of hosting a Hollywood production on their property, horror stories of property damage and business interruption come to mind. However, that has not been FAA First’s experience. In fact, Rivera prefers the production to the traditional office tenants the credit union had in mind when they built the facility. “I like having them as tenants, because they’re not here very often,” Rivera said. “On average, they’re only here three or four days a month; plus, they just finished shooting for the season and won’t be back until late June or July. That’s nice, too, that they’re not here all year, but we earn income all year long.” Although Rivera said her contract with the production prohibits her from revealing how much FAA First earns from the arrangement, she did say they pay higher than current market value. “At one point, the FAA was looking at leasing our space,” Rivera said. “I’m kind of glad that didn’t work out, because we were considering letting them lease for under market, since they’re our original sponsor. “CSI pays a little bit above market rate, which is nice for us,” Rivera said, adding, “It definitely helps our non-interest income.” The production is also mindful of the credit union’s property and security, said Jenni Morrill Johnson, Director of Human Resources. Johnson oversees the institution’s Facilities Department, which includes building maintenance and security. “They’ve been great about covering the cost of any damage caused during filming, even something as simple as their crew stepping on our flowers,” Johnson said. “Once, a production light broke one of our windows, and not only did they fix it right away, they provided an on-site security guard while it was being fixed so our security wasn’t compromised after hours.” In fact, the credit union will receive free landscaping courtesy of the production, which requested to increase the number of trees on the property. The interrogation room set contains a window that looks out across the credit union’s parking lot and toward a self-storage facility located behind the institution. Production lighting reflects off the storage facility wall, resulting in an unacceptable shot, Johnson explained. So, to fix the lighting problem, CSI: Miami offered to plant new trees along the wall, replacing some of FAA First’s original trees with healthier ones that are fuller in foliage. “We were very sensitive because we spent a lot of money on landscaping, so I made it very clear they needed to use our landscaping company to make sure what they add fits in with our look,” Johnson said. “We know they will be the same trees, the same quality – which isn’t cheap, those are expensive trees.” Rivera added, “Whatever changes they make, if we like it, we can keep it when they’re gone, and if we don’t like it, they will remove it at their expense.” The same agreement applies to the lease space, which has undergone construction to meet CSI’s needs. “We originally designed the lease space with the hope that our tenants would like it the way we envisioned using it later,” Rivera said. “We had a plan for how we wanted to occupy the space eventually, and built out some private offices in anticipation. When CSI came in, they tore down some walls, built other walls, and painted it some crazy colors, but of course they are going to put it back the way we want it when they leave,” she said. Human resources and member service issues have been minimal, the credit union reports. “I’d say initially, there were a few disruptions, simply because it was new to us, and our employees were lookyloos,” Rivera said, “But since then it hasn’t been a distraction from the employees standpoint.” In fact, Rivera said, hosting the production has helped FAA First’s employee recruiting efforts. “It helps generate enthusiasm among our recruits,” Rivera said. “It seems like they’re really impressed with that, and every little thing you can do to stand out among the other credit unions helps.” CSI: Miami occasionally shoots later than regular credit union hours, which creates the potential to compromise the credit union’s security. To alleviate the problem, FAA First facilities staff volunteers to work overtime and provide security for nighttime productions. Those staff members are paid by CSI: Miami, so the credit union does not incur any overtime expense, Johnson said. Additionally, employees are not required to work the extra hours, although Johnson said they have never turned down the opportunity to earn overtime production wages, which are higher than those paid by the credit union. FAA First’s headquarters building does not include a full-service branch, so member traffic is not as heavy as it is at other credit unions. However, there is some traffic from members who use the office for non-cash transactions, real estate lending and investment appointments. Initially, members were confused by the police car props, as well as the Miami Dade Police Department sign the production places over FAA First’s sign while filming. However, television and movie productions are nothing new to Los Angeles residents, and members quickly got used to the arrangement. “We once had a couple of complaints from members, because some production staff told our members to walk around to the back of the building for access while they were filming in the front,” Rivera said, “And that wasn’t part of our deal.” “When we renegotiated the contract this year, I told them if our members can’t get into the front door during business hours, it would be a deal breaker. I just can’t allow members not having access to our building,” she said. Parking has not been an issue because the credit union, which moved into its headquarters building in late 2000, still has room to grow into the space. Johnson anticipates leasing the space out for another five years, and expects CSI: Miami to continue using the space for most, if not all, of that time. “We just renewed our contract with them for the third year, and we feel confident they will renew with us for another five years because the show has been so popular,” Johnson said. Although the show has been popular with the public, it’s not a big hit with the credit union CEO. “I hate the show, quite honestly, because it’s too gruesome for me,” Rivera said. However, lack of interest in the show hasn’t completely prevented the leader from becoming star struck. “After all this time, I’m still too shy to ask (David) Caruso for an autograph,” she said. [email protected]

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