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City film committee discusses issues
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The Covington Film Review Committee met for the first time on Monday morning at city hall to begin their discussions on how to improve filming in the city.
A group of eight individuals selected by Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston attended the meeting.

Committee members included Rev. Doug Gilreath, senior pastor of Covington First United Methodist Church; Willie Davis, the city's human resources department training manager; columnist Barbara Morgan; John Howard, chairman of the Covington Municipal Airport Authority; Irene Smith local TV show host; Teresa Waters with the "About Covington to Madison" magazine; Susan Kirk, owner of Scoops; and Andi Behring, assistant locations manager with "The Vampire Diaries."

City Manger Steve Horton and Johnston were also in attendance. Johnston said the city needed a group of people who could work together and represent the entire community.
"I tried to put together a group that covered all aspects of Covington which is kind of tough," he said.

During the meeting, Johnston and Horton gave a brief history on the filming done in Covington, the economic impact of the filming and discussed why the committee was needed.

According to remarks made at the ‘Walk of Stars' unveiling by Kevin Langston, Georgia's deputy commissioner of tourism, direct tourist spending topped $100 million and created or sustained 990 jobs in Covington and Newton County.

Johnston said these were community-wide benefits and stressed the importance of securing the filming industry in Covington and Newton County.

"The committee surely has its work cut out, but we are up to the task that is before us," Johnston said. "We will meet again and begin sorting out the issues and developing solutions on Nov. 26."

Johnston said he will work to keep the citizens informed on the progress that the committee is making. During the meeting, Behring spoke on behalf of the filming crews with Bonanza Productions, which films "The Vampire Diaries." She said they have heard several complaints and that the filming crews go above and beyond in Covington to make sure that any problems that arise are taken care of.

"Unfortunately when people see someone walking by with a light in their hand or setting up, they just think - film crews and movies tend to run through...they are one stop shops and they don't care if they burn bridges. We're here every year and that's why we go above and beyond for Covington and unfortunately a lot of times when I'm hit with complaints - it's film crews, film crew, film crews. But out of the whole year, we're only here about 10 days. So it's really not like it's four or five times a month. It's maybe once a month for us," Behring said.

"We appreciate you guys and we don't take it for granted," she said. "Honestly, I have a great appreciation for Covington and half of our crew is from Georgia. They're Georgia kids who went to college for this and they are working their butts off. So it's a huge mixed value...I wasn't born in Covington, but I have a great appreciation for it and even you guys taking the heat off of us, that means a lot."

Waters, who's also a Covington resident, said her family has personally been impacted by filming, but the filming crews have always been easy to work with and it has not been that big of a deal. She compared filming to Friday night football games, parades and other events on the square, which she said had more noise than filming.

"There are always going to be things that are going on around town that may interrupt your life a little bit," Waters said.

Smith added that everybody is not going to be on the same page no matter how much you try and that it seemed filming crews were doing their best to compensate those who were hugely impacted by filming.

"It sounds to me that it has been very, very good. They are going overboard," Smith said.
Johnston said the main goal for getting the committee together was to define a set of rules for filming and to create a group that could address filming issues that may occur in the future.

"We're trying to take care of our citizens and be fair, but we are also trying to take care of a very important industry."