Town of Ladysmith considering bond to protect businesses from film crews

Requiring filmmakers to put up a $20,000 bond will help minimize impact on local businesses, says the mayor.

Requiring filmmakers to put up a $20,000 bond will help minimize impact on local businesses, says the mayor.

Town council is planning to update its 11-year-old film production policy after local business complained of being negatively impacted during a two-day film shoot in August on First Avenue and High Street. Complaints of customer access to businesses being limited and workers having difficulty getting to work were lodged.

“Our policy right now is what’s in the best interest for the town, but it doesn’t speak to businesses,” said Mayor Rob Hutchins, during last Monday’s council meeting. “We need to provide protection to them.”

The $20,000 amount was something Hutchins said he was just “throwing out there.” He said having some kind of bond is needed to ensure production crews don’t abuse their authority after getting a filming permit.

The money would either be refunded or distributed to businesses negatively affected, who were not consulted with. This bond idea received support from most councillors.

“My understanding was that they (filmmakers) had actually gone and set up their backdrop without  consultation to a particular business, and that business lost business because they had no prior warning,” said Coun. Steve Arnett, describing one of the problems that happened during the production in Ladysmith. “I would support a small surety.”

“The surety has potential,” said Coun. Jillian Dashwood.

However, Coun. Lori Evans was concerned that such a high amount would discourage smaller film productions.

“Setting a $20,000 bond limits access,” Evans said, citing independent producers would not be able to afford such an amount. “You’re missing out on a market which kind of defeats the artisan community that we are trying to uphold.”

Ladysmith Downtown Business Association president Jenna Forster said during the last production, some businesses had their doors blocked, were forced to remove their sandwich boards and there was lack of communication and consultation.

“I believe the businesses would be in support of this,” Forster said about having a bond. “There are businesses that don’t approve of films coming to Ladysmith, but in general, businesses are in support of it.

“There just needs to be a respect of those businesses and remuneration for any income loss.”

The town asked the LDBA to come forward with recommendations to mitigate problems in the future.

Council passed a motion to invite Film Cowichan, which promotes film production in the Cowichan Valley, next year for a presentation about filming. It is expected council will then direct staff to work on updating the current film production policy.

Film production in Ladysmith has occurred every two years since 2005.