Changes to filming ordinance worry some

BURBANK — Members of the entertainment industry and community voiced their concerns Tuesday night about proposed changes to the city’s film ordinance, as the City Council considered a plan that would change the permit rules for small-scale filmmakers around the city.

Under the proposed ordinance, filmmakers using hand-held cameras would not need to obtain a filming permit to operate on private or public property. As long as the camera operators do not impede access to public property, a permit would not be required.

Some testified at the City Council meeting that small filmmakers and freelancers might be negatively affected by the proposed changes, which, they believed, would give police and fire authorities more power to stop or modify a production due to safety concerns. However, officials said changes in the ordinance mostly consist of new wording to clarify existing policies.

“Essentially, it’s the same,” City Atty. Dennis Barlow said. “Most of that language is already in there.”

Barlow said the new ordinance would not give authorities any more control than they have now. In contrast to the existing code, however, the proposed ordinance provides an exemption for hand-held cameras.

Producer and editor Eric Michael Cap testified Tuesday in favor of altering the ordinance, but urged the City Council to review how the changes will affect small filming projects.

“This update is long overdue. I support the changes wholeheartedly,” Cap said.

The City Council plans to vote on the ordinance next week.

Councilman David Gordon said he hopes the ordinance will allow people to film on private property if it does not affect the public, especially people relying on such work for their livelihood.

Filming that is deemed a public threat is open to interpretation by police and fire authorities. Fire Chief Tracy Pansini said filming on private property has the potential for hazards that might pose a threat to the public.

Those that do not meet these criteria, under the proposed ordinance, must obtain a permit and pay a fee of $350, which is good for seven days.

Nonprofits and student productions are exempt from paying the fee.

Amendments to the existing film ordinance were undertaken to meet technological advancements in the industry, provide permit fee waivers for certain projects and clarify ambiguous language, among other things. But the legalese in the amended ordinance seemed to further compound confusion.

Some stood at the podium urging City Council members to review the filming code thoroughly regardless of the time spent.

“I want to know, what’s the rush?” said Burbank resident Rose Prouser.

She questioned who wrote the bill after seeing Police Chief Tim Stehr’s name on the draft.

“Ordinances should be drafted by lawyers and should be reinforced by the police and not vice versa,” Prouser said.

In response to Prouser’s testimony, incoming City Manager Mike Flad said the ordinance has been under review for over a year. He also indicated that the ordinance was crafted by the city attorney’s office.

The City Council will vote on the issue next week after amendments to the language in the ordinance have been made, particularly wording about hand-held cameras.

At the end of the night, some hoped City Council members would also consider public testimony and the interests of the city.

“We, Burbank, are the media capital of the world,” Cap said. “We need to set the standard and lead on this issue.”


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