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Boise’s city council considers regulating filming in town

The Boise City Council is considering an ordinance to regulate filmmaking to avoid problems.

The Boise City Council is considering an ordinance to regulate filmmaking to avoid problems.

Donald Tong via Pexels

A film company filled out an event permit with the Ada County Highway District in 2017 to shoot footage of a commercial. The commercial was called “Bank Spot,” and blocks of downtown were closed while filming occurred on a Sunday, Kelli Frank, Boise’s special events team liaison, told the Idaho Statesman.

City of Boise officials asked the company for the necessary paperwork and permits required to shut down streets and sidewalks and to use a building. But the city did not ask what the commercial was about.

“We failed to ask that question,” said Jamie Heinzerling, of the city’s Department of Finance and Administration, at a work session of the Boise City Council on Tuesday.

When filming began, the commercial’s producers recreated a car chase, had actors brandish guns and simulated a bank robbery, Heinzerling said. Residents at cafes downtown reportedly called 911, and other passersby called non-emergency dispatch.

That and other incidents have led the city of Boise to consider an ordinance to regulate how filmmakers can go about their business. On Tuesday, Heinzerling presented ideas that include provisions to limit the effects filming has on the public, to procure compensation for private use of public space, and to ensure public safety.

Heinzerling also raised the prospect of requiring permits for filming that meets certain impact criteria, including late-night filming, shoots that require street closures, use of firearms, loud noise, dangerous animals, nudity, drones, equipment like generators or disruption to vehicle or pedestrian traffic.

The ordinance would also require written consent if any city logos were used, and film companies would have to apply at least 30 days prior to production.

Applicants would need to detail other information about their production and would need to acquire insurance and potentially bonding in case of unforeseen problems.

Student films, still photography, personal films, news media and investigative footage would be exempt, Heinzerling said.

Concerns about being overly burdensome

Council President Elaine Clegg remembers the aftermath of the 2017 filming.

“There was a lot of surprise at the kind of activity that was going on and a lot of concern by citizens,” Clegg said.

In other instances, some music videos have been filmed on public property without approvals or insurance requirements, Heinzerling said. In 2020, Toyota filmed a commercial downtown, and street closures and occupied parking spots affected businesses, Frank said.

Bruce Bates photo of Toyota commercial tken 8.26.2020.jpg
Toyota filmed a commercial in Boise in Aug. 2020, which a city official said caused street closures and occupied parking spaces that affected businesses. The Boise City Council considers setting terms for how production companies can film in the city. Bruce Bates

Council members expressed concern Tuesday about imposing overly burdensome requirements that might hinder filmmakers needlessly, especially for small or indie productions.

“I really look to (film) as an economic development activity,” said Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings. “We want folks to come use our public places. We want film crews to be here in Boise. Our state has never been very supportive of the film industry, but it really is a great opportunity for us to showcase some of our best assets and really attract a new industry into our city.”

Council Member Lisa Sánchez asked city staff to get in touch with i48, a local short-film festival, for feedback.

Clegg said the council could consider scaling the requirements based on size and complexity, so that small filmmakers would not face the same requirements as large corporations like Toyota. She suggested the clerk’s office meet with local filmmakers and potentially a larger production company to discuss the ordinance.

During her presentation, Heinzerling said city employees reviewed similar ordinances in cities with large film industries, like Los Angeles.

A public hearing will be required to be held on the ordinance to receive feedback on the fees, and potentially on the ordinance in general. Clegg said she hopes to hold a council hearing on the subject on Aug. 30.

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Ian Max Stevenson is a breaking news reporter at the Idaho Statesman. If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a subscription to our newspaper.
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