Filming in Dundas is not dead
Sometimes decisions are made for the right reason, but play out in an unintended way. Media attention; a few phone calls and emails; most importantly, discussions with a couple of folks who are directly affected by fall-out from this decision; and additional information about the film industry's database -- all come together to bear out the need for re-examination.
This is Dundas... the home of concerned and engaged residents -- most of whom, like me, value a quality of life and community spirit where we work together to find good solutions to difficult issues. We'll do that with this issue too.
I am always willing to re-examine new information, as it comes forward, and to work with the decision-makers to reach the best resolution for us as a community.
In light of the recent media attention and what appears to be an issue requiring context and clarification, I want to make clear, filming in Dundas is not dead. In fact, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, in Dundas, we are very film-friendly and have been for many years. We have consistently worked with film companies, dealt with the impacts on our business and residential neighbourhoods and tried to accommodate everyone's needs.
Just in the past two years, the number of film productions that have come to Dundas, alone, has risen from 1, 2, sometimes 3 or 4 per year to 8 in 2013 and double that to 16 in 2014. According to the City’s Film Office, those 16 productions represent approximately 100 days of shooting and preparation on our streets and in our neighbourhoods -- that's one every 3 days, somewhere in Dundas.
This has resulted in many citizen concerns and in January of this year we began having discussions with the City’s Film Office staff, the BIA Board of Directors, and some residential neighbourhoods – all of whom have had direct experience with filming locations in this community. We set about to research, review and refine the parameters under which filming occurs in Dundas – this was not about making changes to the City’s By-law. After many meetings over these past 7 months, it came to light that several things – over and above the need to address filming parameters – were about to unfold which would have a profound impact on where and when filming commitments could be made in Dundas over the next couple of years.
We are expecting several major Capital construction projects to take place over the next three years – in fact, we are hoping that they will address serious concerns that impact hundreds of Dundas residents daily – and recognize the fact that traffic in Dundas will be significantly impacted by these projects, requiring detours to accommodate the daily vehicular load and resulting in limited access to some areas.
As well, we were advised that the municipal parking lots may soon be off limits due to their state of disrepair and requirements for some upgrades. This too will have a serious impact on our ability to accommodate movie shoots in the downtown area of Dundas.
In light of the above, and in collaboration with the City’s Film staff, it was determined that we should inform the film industry. Furthermore, we believed being proactive about informing the industry was prudent and responsible. As a result, it was determined that the Film Office would alert the Ontario Media Development Corporation -- and thereby the film industry -- that Dundas would not be available for “business as usual” and that filming, under normal circumstances, for the next 2 to 3 years would be impacted. Under normal circumstances is the operative phrase. This does not mean no filming in Dundas, but rather filming would and could occur as long as it doesn't impact the road closures and capital works, and as long as the industry can address the issues in the neighbourhoods, and adhere to the requirements of the City's Filming By-law.
In addition, in locations where filming can take place entirely on private property, at times the production won’t be interrupted by, or be an interruption to, a capital construction project or its subsequent fallout, a film permit could and would be approved as per normal process.
The challenge is that we can't know exactly when or what these impacts will be, at this time and location managers are looking for locations they can depend on.
Back to the original issues at hand: It is my office and the office of the Dundas BIA that receive the phone calls of dismay from affected neighbourhoods: permits are being requested and subsequently issued at the last minute; neighbourhood notifications are not being delivered to the impacted neighbouring properties in a timely manner or according to the City's regulations; trucks are parked in areas where they impede safe travel; crew members vehicles line streets; people cannot exit their own driveways or in some cases even get to their own house; traffic stoppages (while shooting occurs or equipment is arranged) are problematic; sidewalks are impassable; night filming keeps residents awake; lighting is disturbing; fire hydrants are blocked for days at a time; parking spaces are blocked off, making it difficult (if not impossible) to find a parking space close to downtown or near individual homes; crew members cluster and smoke on the sidewalks while waiting for their next shoot or job, making it uncomfortable for passersby; permit times and limitations are not adhered to or respected; businesses do not do more business when a film shoot is in town, the spectators who crowd around to watch are not shopping and actual customers avoid the shopping area; traffic stoppages on King Street mean that local people choose other routes to avoid the congestion downtown, so businesses actually suffer during filming; discarded food, water bottles and garbage are left in front of stores and on lawns.... and the list goes on. The film shoots impact many more homes and businesses than the one property where the owner is being paid for the use of their property. Neighbouring folks often do not receive compensation, but are certainly inconvenienced. These issues are on-going and solutions are difficult and are not necessarily resulting in resolution. Therein lies the tie-in to the significant increase in filming (1 day out of every 3 somewhere in Dundas). People express more concerns because there has been such an increase in film activity.
On the other hand, everyone absolutely recognizes that a few of our property owners are receiving income for the use of their buildings or services; crew members and production people have jobs on these movie sets; it is entertaining and novel to watch the production unfold and exciting to see Dundas on TV occasionally (although no one but a local would know it is Dundas because recognition of Dundas in the credits is not permissible) and we do want to be supportive of the Arts and the industry, as a whole.
To that end, we are already working with some long-standing productions and locations to accommodate them where possible in the coming months.
The intention was to alert the industry that Dundas will not be in a position to commit , freely, to any and all film shoots for the next few years and that we are striving to reach a balance that addresses the needs of both the film industry and the community during a time when we know there will be challenges for the residents and the film industry within Dundas.
Hamilton is a film friendly pro-active community that welcomes the film industry and has maintained that reputation for over 15 years. -- we have always been a part of that. Apparently there is a different message that can be utilized on the industry's database that appears less draconian than the words "unavailable" and "moratorium". We will be continuing to work with them to present the message in the most effective and reflective way.
While there are, and continue to be, necessary restrictions that will occur in Dundas, and likely other segments of the broader City of Hamilton, we will move forward to review each request and application on a case by case basis to ensure the needs of the film industry and community – businesses and
residents -- are fulfilled, while adhering to the limitations that Dundas might be facing over the next few years.
Therefore, I will be suggesting, and have staff support and assurance, that a more prudent approach is - that each application be looked at and reviewed with key partners to ensure we can fulfill the needs of both the industry and community and continue to welcome this important industry to the City of Hamilton.
Councillor Arlene VanderBeek
Ward 13 - Community of Dundas