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Ashland opts for more study before updating rules for filmmakers

The Ashland City Council has postponed adoption of new regulations on filmmakers while the city searches for ways to reduce the effects on students, nonprofit groups, private citizens and small businesses that shoot film.

The city is in the midst of updating its 20-year-old film regulations. Proposed revisions call for filmmakers to obtain permits at least 10 days before shooting and buy $2 million worth of liability insurance.

Current regulations require filmmakers to get permits at least five days in advance and have $500,000 worth of liability insurance.

The city is grappling with the issue in the midst of a video-shooting boom.

Mobile phones that shoot video, less expensive cameras and Internet sites such as YouTube have enabled everyday people to shoot and post video to a wide audience.

Southern Oregon University is incorporating filming into a broad array of classes and more professional filmmakers are shooting in Ashland.

"We're in an odd situation where we're trying to regulate technology," said Councilor Mike Morris, noting that anyone can be a filmmaker these days.

People shooting family videos for personal use, the news media and people filming in studios would not have to get permits.

People shooting for commercial purposes, nonprofit groups, classes and people filming on private property would have to get permits at least 10 days in advance and have the $2 million in liability insurance.

Several filmmakers and SOU Assistant Professor Erik Palmer said the requirements could be difficult for small productions to meet.

City councilors had many concerns about the impacts of the proposed regulations as they reviewed the issue during a Tuesday night meeting.

Councilors will send their thoughts and concerns to city staff, who will continue working on draft changes to Ashland's filmmaking regulations.

The issue will come back to the council at a future meeting.

City Attorney David Lohman said that $2 million of liability insurance has become the standard for protecting cities in Oregon.

Lowering the liability insurance requirement or waiving it for some filmmakers puts the city at risk, he said.

"Whenever we allow flexibility, we're taking a risk on behalf of the taxpayers," Lohman said.

— Vickie Aldous

Read more in Friday's Mail Tribune.