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Covington to look at updates in filming procedures
vampire Diaries filming
"The Vampire Diaries" filmed in Covington for about eight years. - photo by File Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. – The Covington City Council is looking at changing its filming procedures as productions continue to flock to the “Hollywood of the South.”

City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said in the work session prior to the council meeting that she and other city employees are working towards creating new film procedures that would put tighter belts on the production companies, while also making the city and merchants happier.

She said the current filming procedures do not allow the city to fine film productions that do not follow the approved road closures.

 “We’ve got to have some more teeth in them,” she said. “We want to be able to – now obviously, one of the things we want to be able to do is we want to be able to fine these people when they don’t abide by what we ask them to abide by, we want to be able to fine them.”

The updated film procedures will be brought before the council first in a work session before approval, Knight said.

“We’ve got to show them that you can’t just walk all over us and you can’t walk all over our merchants here in town,” she said.

Knight said downtown merchants have been unhappy with the recent filming and its impact on their customers.

Currently, the film procedures read as follows:

Downtown Film Activity Impacts

  1. If customer access to business is directly impeded during business hours, a maximum of $200 per day will be paid for filming activity: set up, filming and breakdown.
  2. If the business is directly affected by filming, compensation will be decided between the filming company and business owner.

Residential Film Impacts

  1. Typical film days shall be conducted between the hours of 7 a.m. and midnight for set up, filming and breakdown. If no traffic restrictions exist for the residents with 200 linear feet of the film location, $0 compensation per resident is required.
  2. If filming or wrap up is to extend beyond midnight, compensation per each resident within 200 linear feet of the actual filming location shall be compensated at a rate of $50 per each day of film activity, excluding exceptional activity, i.e.: pyrotechnics, explosions, etc.
  3. If road closures exist, all impacted residents shall be compensated at a rate of $100 per day for their inconvenience.
  4. Private property use will be an agreement between the filming company and homeowner. 

“Our merchants were a little spoiled by ‘Vampire Diaries,’” she said. “Our policy says $200, that’s the inconvenience fee. ‘Vampire Diaries,’ unfortunately, would up that ante. You know, even if they weren’t filming in your location they might give you three or four or five hundred dollars as an inconvenience fee, which was not what the procedure was.”

Knight said the newer productions have followed the procedure more closely.

“They did do what they were asked to do, they did go and give them an inconvenience fee, but they (the merchants) told them ‘No, thank you’ and that they wanted more money,” she said. “So, basically what we told them at that point was, that’s the procedure, your job is to give them that – you write the check, you offer it to them – if they don’t take it, there’s nothing you can do about it because you’ve done what you were asked to do.”

Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston suggested changing the inconvenience fee to a sliding scale dependent on what day of the week the filming occurs to discourage filming on busier days for merchants.

“When the movie folks come here, it’s like we’re second-class citizens."
Covington Resident Thelma Star Nolley

Covington Resident Thelma Star Nolley raised a concern about the filming activity during the council’s meeting.

“When the movie folks come here, it’s like we’re second-class citizens,” she said. “We pay taxes but we have to go all the way around the world to get from Point A to Point B. The streets are blocked off and that’s not fair to us because we’re not making money.

“Everything seems like it’s going uptown, ain’t no money coming to the other people’s districts. So, you know, there’s a whole lot of things that the city needs to do that the city is not doing. Y’all need to start doing y’all’s job because it’s not fair to us. Once everybody leaves, we’re still here, we’re paying taxes.”

Knight assured her that the filming procedures are being looked at and should see updates soon.