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As film production grows in Kamloops, a debate emerges on regulating shoots

On Oct. 6, city council approved a new film permitting bylaw
movie shoot filming
Film crews and their vehicles were shooting on Lee Road in the West End in September 2021.

When a film crew recently shot in Ken Nicholson’s neighbourhood in the West End of Kamloops, he did not receive the red carpet treatment.

Instead, he said, the film crew worked long hours into the night, positioned a noisy diesel generator used to power the set within close proximity of his bedroom, snarled up parking in the area and left garbage sitting around, despite numerous wildlife-community encounters of late in the city.

“It was an eye-opener,” Nicholson told KTW. “Let’s put it that way.”

Nicholson took his concerns to the city, in advance of council’s approval on Oct. 6 of a new film permitting bylaw. Nicholson said he is not against the film industry. Instead, he thinks the city should carefully regulate it, so as to mitigate impacts, such as the ones he experienced.

Coun. Denis Walsh tried to delay council’s decision to adopt the film permitting bylaw, putting forward a motion to postpone the decision to a later date as a result of Nicholson’s concerns. The motion failed, with only Walsh and Coun. Bill Sarai voting in favour.

Council voted to adopt the bylaw via a vote of 6-2. Mayor Ken Christian and councillors Dale Bass, Dieter Dudy, Sadie Hunter, Kathy Sinclair and Arjun Singh voted in favour.

Coun. Mike O’Reilly was absent for personal reasons.

Walsh told KTW after the vote he looked at similar bylaws in other communities that were more extensive than the one adopted by the city, including rules around interfering with parks use and how they impact and consult with neighbourhoods. He said the city’s new bylaw relies on negotiations.

“Ours is kind of up to the film officer,” Walsh said. “There’s nothing written in black and white. So, depending on the mood or the experience of the film officer, they’re going to make those critical decisions. Nothing is written down.”

At the time of the bylaw’s first readings, Walsh also raised concerns about filming in city parks and the community’s ability to balance desire for economic benefits and use by the public.

The film industry provides economic spinoffs, with crews often travelling from out of town to stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and shop in stores. The city’s film permitting bylaw comes amidst rising demand for filming in Kamloops. This year has been the city’s best-ever year, with nine productions to date.

Christian said he believed public concerns would be addressed by the new film permitting bylaw because it would increase oversight. The city has not previously have a film permitting bylaw.

The city’s external relations liaison, Sarah Candido, explained to KTW that concerns from residents about impacts on neighbourhoods are addressed by other city bylaws, such as the noise bylaw, which dictates when film crews can make noise. Candido said that bylaw and others, such as parking rules and facility rentals, have been in effect for film production in Kamloops to date and will continue to be with the new film permitting bylaw.

“All of those are already dictated by existing bylaws, which films have to follow,” Candido said.

Candido said the city talked to the film crew in Nicholson’s neighbourhood about parking in another area of downtown, noting the production only had a couple of vehicles parked in the West End at any time. She said crew were shuttled from the BCLC parking lot into that area.

However, she said Nicholson raised good points about generator use and garbage. She said the city is meeting internally to create a separate procedure document, which will guide how the city interacts with film crews, and aims to ensure the least amount of friction between the community and film productions.

Candido said the city is following best practices from other communities.

“It’s an ongoing balance of trying to encourage an industry that needs sets and buildings that are in the public realm, mixed with trying to make sure that the public is happy and that they’re seeing the good side of filming, not the side that has friction,” Candido said. “For us, all of these documents are living documents, where we make changes and improvements to the best of our ability and just try and grow the industry at the same time as keeping people happy.”