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Lights, camera, permit!

ASHLAND — The city is proposing tighter rules for commercial filmmakers: They would have to apply for a city permit 10 working days in advance and have $2 million in liability insurance.

Ashland's film regulations date back to 1984 and need to be updated, according to city officials.

Filmmakers currently must seek permits five working days before filming and have liability insurance that ranges from $500,000 to $1 million, depending on the duration of the filming.

The discussion over new regulations comes less than a week after MovieMaker Magazine named Ashland the No. 2 town in America for filmmakers to live and work.

The magazine's criteria included community support for filmmaking, the overall arts scene, cost of living, quality of life, frequency and quality of filmmaking, and established infrastructure for the industry.

Under the proposed regulations, people shooting family movies, the news media and people shooting at studios would not have to secure permits.

People shooting films for charitable reasons, students filming for classes or people filming on private property would need to obtain permits, but they wouldn't be charged fees.

The city has yet to set fees.

It's not clear yet how the regulations would affect people who shoot videos for social media sites such as YouTube or Facebook, or how the city would police such activity.

Many people post videos to YouTube and hope to attract enough viewers that they can make money off their videos through advertisements.

Arguably, they could be categorized as commercial filmmakers and be required to obtain permits and insurance.

City management analyst Ann Seltzer said it has been difficult for the city to update its filmmaking regulations in a way that addresses all the ways people shoot video these days.

"The intent is not to gouge people or to have a heavy hammer that comes down on the small guy shooting a YouTube video," she said. "The intent is to regulate something that has the potential to impact or negatively affect this community."

Encouraging filmmaking is part of Ashland's economic-development efforts, and more films are being shot in and around town.

In October, shooting for the film "Wild," starring Reese Witherspoon, brought revenue to the area and temporary work for local industry professionals.

However, many downtown businesses lost money when streets were closed to accommodate shooting.

The proposed city regulations include provisions that the filmmaking not unduly impact public health, safety or the general welfare of residents or businesses in the immediate area.

Filmmakers must clean up trash and debris after filming, provide portable toilets if needed and use signs, certified flaggers or law-enforcement personnel if traffic flow is impeded, according to the proposed regulations.

Gary Kout, executive director of Southern Oregon Film and Television, said larger film projects have enough lead time that they won't be inconvenienced by a requirement to get a permit 10 working days ahead of shooting.

He said requiring $2 million in liability insurance is a prudent measure for Ashland.

"The regulations are definitely in line with other places that are popular for professional filmmaking," Kout said.

Both Kout and Seltzer said if the new regulations are adopted and later prove unworkable, the city could change them.

In other business on Tuesday night, councilors will hear an update on how the city is preparing for potential drought.

For a complete list of agenda items and details on each item, see www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=16052.

Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.