Committee talks filming policies

COVINGTON -- A committee formed by city officials is continuing discussions on creating policies related to filming in the city.

On Monday, the committee agreed to the following: Requiring that set-up, filming and break-down be completed by midnight in residential areas; requiring compensation, of an undetermined amount, for business owners if 50 to 100 percent of storefront parking is taken up by film crews during business hours; and requiring compensation to residents if filming goes past midnight in residential areas, as well as permission from the city to film any scenes involving noisy special effects. The committee asked the mayor to contact Bonanza Productions, the production company for "The Vampire Diaries" to find out the amount they'd be willing to compensate.

Discussions will continue at the committee's next meeting on Dec. 10 and a proposal will come before the City Council Dec. 17. Committee members present were Irene Smith, Treasa Waters, Susan Kirk, Willie Davis, John Howard, Barbara Morgan and Mayor Ronnie Johnston.

While some committee members were hesitant to require a production company to pay a set amount to impacted residents and business owners, Johnston said Bonanza Productions representatives have said they'd prefer to have a set amount to avoid having to negotiate.

Payment for filming that occurs on private property would still be negotiated with property owners, he noted.

Kirk, owner of Scoops downtown, said she's surveyed about nine business owners and most aren't happy with the compensation they've received. The majority who don't support filming are service providers such as lawyers or insurance agents, not retailers, she said. Waters said merchants need to be educated on how to profit from the film industry.

"Souvenirs in other words," said Smith.

Waters, a Floyd Street resident, said she's spoken with her neighbors and most "love it and want to keep the film industry here." Some said last Saturday's Christmas parade was more invasive than filming. She recommended the city put permits online to make it easier for the film industry and for residents to see the requirements.

Johnston said the city is already putting together a website related to filming that will also include various possible locations around the city for filming, to assist location scouts.

Johnston said some residents have been frustrated that they've been required to go through checkpoints to get to and from their houses. Now, those residents have a VIP sticker that lets film crews know they can pass through without being stopped, he said.

Committee members agreed that inconveniences from filming are minor compared to the benefits. The town of Senoia, where the TV show "The Walking Dead" is filmed, has had its Main Street closed for 30 days straight, noted Johnston, who said Covington has never had to endure anything like that. He added that he would like to have an event downtown that would celebrate Covington's connection to the film industry.