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City rejects changes to film bylaw – for now

Review prompted by concerns about movie productions working on private property
Greater Sudbury has rejected imposing tougher rules for filmmakers working in the city whose productions are shot on private property – at least for now. (File)

Greater Sudbury has rejected imposing tougher rules for filmmakers working in the city whose productions are shot on private property – at least for now.

Meeting this week, city council approved a staff report that recommended no changes until Jan. 1, 2020, when the current bylaw expires.

The report was prompted by a request in April from Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier, who said there are currently no restrictions on filming on private property.
In one case, he said a film company bought a house in a residential area and began working from there.

"Under our current bylaw, there is nothing that forbids that," he said in April. “This motion asks staff to go and look at best practices from other municipalities. We want to find the best way to strike the most appropriate balance between nurturing this most excellent industry everyone acknowledges we want in our community ... but at the same time protect those residents in densely populated residential zones who could be negatively affected by prolonged activity in their neighbourhood." 

The report approved Tuesday cautioned against bringing in new rules too quickly, in case they end up harming a thriving new industry in Greater Sudbury.

“Council has prioritized the need to reduce barriers to business and to make Greater Sudbury a 'film friendly' city,” the report said. “The film sector pays close attention municipal policy development, and staff have been contacted by industry representatives concerned by perceived restrictions on filming in key areas.”

Just this week in Sudbury, representatives from William F. White, the country's oldest and largest supplier of motion picture and television equipment, described the local film market as booming, with such homegrown productions as Letterkenny, Cardinal, and The Witch.

"Sudbury has been the fastest-growing market in Canada for film and television over the last three years," said company CEO Paul Bronfman. "The hope is to continue growing this industry here, and in order to do that we have to get producers locating to Sudbury so our local film producers and crews can continue to grow and learn."

To keep the industry healthy, the report to city council said they need to strike a balance between serving the industry's needs and concerns of residents.

“Greater Sudbury’s competitiveness as a film destination depends on regional incentives, as well as its ability to service a variety of film production types,” the report said.

“Efforts to mitigate effects of filming in residential areas must balance the needs of residents with the interests of the film sector as an important economic driver.”

Instead of changing the bylaw now, it suggests modifying the filming guidelines productions receive that outline best practices and codes of conduct expected of movie productions.

“It is staff’s recommendation that the film guidelines are strengthened regarding filming on private property as the course of action,” the report said.

“It can be implemented in the short term and is suggested as an initial step. If council wishes to explore the potential for other options, this should require industry consultation, economic impact analysis and a more fulsome report and presentation to council.”

Longer term, the staff report proposes holding consultations with members of the industry and the public to gauge the best way to change the bylaw ahead of 2020.

Read the full report here.