While many businesses could remain operational while Amazon Prime filmed “Motorheads,” the arterial street was closed intermittently, road parking blocked off, and nearby municipal lots filled with production vehicles, said a local business owner.Celeste Percy-Beauregard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A local business owner and chair of the Downtown Paris BIA hopes a forthcoming policy surrounding filming activities in the County of Brant considers the impact to business owners.

At an administration and operations meeting on June 18, Matt Cummings, who owns Cobblestone Public House and Stillwaters, told councillors he felt angry and “taken advantage of” when the Amazon Prime show “Motorheads” first shared their filming requirements with him.

The show, starring Ryan Phillippe and Nathalie Kelley, is one of the most-high profile series to film in downtown Paris.

Local production took place for multiple days across May and June, turning Grand River Street North into a rust-belt town.

While many businesses could remain operational on filming days, the arterial street was closed intermittently, road parking blocked off, and nearby municipal lots loaded with production vehicles.

“I was shocked that somebody would ask a community of businesses to remove all of their parking and access to a main street to come in and film a TV show,” Cummings told councillors.

He estimates as a result of the disruptions, he’s “well over $15,000 down,” compared with previous years. 

And when his restaurants’ sales are cut, his staff also take home less money, he told councillors. 

The production company has said it will provide compensation for losses, but the onus is on impacted businesses to reach out to the company directly, Zach Gable, director of economic development and tourism, told councillors on June 18.

Cummings acknowledged some local businesses have seen economic benefits — receiving payouts from the production company when their operation is completely shut down for filming.

But he said he wonders what’s going to happen “when a filming company comes in and they’re not Amazon, and they don’t have money to throw around.”

Cummings emphasized he’s not anti-filming, he just hopes a policy will consider the impacts to “real folks on the ground who are trying to make a living.”

According to a report presented to councillors on June 18, a film policy would involve a “standard set of expectations around typical film activities.”

County staff are in agreement that a film policy is necessary to minimize impacts to businesses and residents and provide clear expectations to production companies.

“We want filming activity in the County of Brant, and we’re here to facilitate it,” Gable told councillors on June 18.

Still, “trying to do this stuff without a film policy does put us in a bind,” he added.

As it stands, when production companies submit an application, the county’s special events advisory team reviews and comments on it.

The production company is responsible for submitting the necessary departmental applications, like public works and park permits, and noise bylaw exemptions.

According to a report presented to councillors on June 18, a film policy would involve a “standard set of expectations around typical film activities.”

These would include details like a code of conduct and a framework for filming downtown in Paris, Burford and St. George to minimize the impacts to businesses and residents.

It would mean updating about 10 bylaws, Gable told councillors.

The county has seen steady filming activity over the past five years — an average of around 19 days each year.

But this month brought in productions from big name distributors, including a Stephen King project with HBO, according to the county.

With continued interested as a film destination, “we need a strong policy,” Gable said, offering September as a realistic timeline to bring the policy back to council.

Celeste Percy-Beauregard’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about Brant County. Reach her at cpercybeauregard@torstar.ca.

By Celeste Percy-Beauregard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 27, 2024 at 07:19

This item reprinted with permission from   The Spectator   Hamilton, Ontario
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