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MailTribune.com
  • Ashland looks to update film ordinance

    Council considers basing permit fees on size of production; amateur shoots pose issues
  • for the Mail Tribune
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  • for the Mail Tribune
    Ashland is considering setting film permit fees based on the size of film crews, with larger productions paying higher rates.
    But the city is still grappling with thorny issues, such as whether to charge nonprofit organizations, how to deal with the proliferation of filming with ubiquitous GoPro cameras and how to treat people shooting YouTube videos.
    During a Monday night Ashland City Council study session devoted to the issue, Councilor Mike Morris noted he recently saw a skateboarder rolling along shooting with a GoPro camera.
    "Does he need a permit?" Morris asked.
    Portable GoPro video cameras are growing increasingly popular, especially with adventure sport enthusiasts such as mountain bikers. Users often post their videos to www.YouTube.com or other Internet venues, although GoPro footage has also been featured in major television commercials.
    Last year, much of downtown Ashland was shut down for the filming of the feature movie "Wild" starring Reese Witherspoon. But the town is also home to people shooting simple, short videos to post on YouTube, as well as nonprofit groups filming public service announcements and other relatively minor works.
    Councilor Pam Marsh, manager of the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, noted the nonprofit Ashland Food Project recently had a film made of its work to collect groceries from neighborhoods and deliver the donations to the food bank.
    Marsh said many people shooting video around town wouldn't even think of obtaining a city permit to film, even though it's required by current law.
    Ashland is in the midst of updating a 1984 film ordinance.
    Marsh said she believes an updated ordinance should provide exemptions for various categories of small-scale filming.
    "I need something that doesn't make a bunch of people lawbreakers," she said.
    A draft ordinance proposes charging a $25 film permit fee plus a $25 temporary business license fee for productions with 10 or fewer cast and crew members, two or fewer vehicles and three or fewer film days in Ashland.
    Productions with 25 or more people, five or more vehicles and five or more filming days in town could pay more than $500.
    Filmmakers would be required to show they had $2 million worth of liability insurance as well.
    The ordinance would allow the city administrator to waive city fees and the insurance requirement if impacts are minimal.
    "We've given the city administrator the ability to waive permit fees and the insurance requirement based on the impact to the community," city of Ashland Management Analyst Ann Seltzer said of the draft ordinance, which she has been working on with input from members of the local film industry.
    Personal film or video shot for private family use would be exempt from the permitting requirements, as would noncommercial film or video shot on state, federal or Ashland School District property.
    Students also would not have to get permits if they stayed on school or Southern Oregon University property.
    Mayor John Stromberg said councilors will have to decide at a future meeting the ultimate form of Ashland's new film permit ordinance. He predicted they will have to work through the draft piece by piece, giving an up or down vote to each element.
    "This whole area is changing daily and expanding really rapidly," Stromberg said of the constantly evolving film and video landscape. "We may need to be prepared for periodic adjustments."
    Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.
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