At times the Newton County Sheriff’s Office and Newton County Fire Services have not been alerted to filming happening in the county.
That should change following passage of an ordinance addressing the issue Tuesday night. The new ordinance requires establishing a permitting system and standards governing motion picture, television and photographic productions.
The ordinance, which was approved 4-0 (Commissioner John Douglas was absent), brings everyone to the table, said Jenny Carter, attorney with the W. T. “Tommy” Craig Law Firm in Covington. “What we’ve done, because there’s so much filming in Newton County, allows everyone — the county, sheriff’s department, fire services, police — to know when there’s filming. It puts everyone at the table together.”
The county will also receive notification if production companies are filming at private residences.
The ordinance also set fees for use of county property and equipment. For example, filming at a county facility runs $750 a day for preparation, construction, take down and clean up, and $1,000 a day for actual filming.
Ironically, the BOC meeting had been moved from the Newton County Historic Courthouse to the Fire Services Administration Building to allow for filming of scenes for the “The Vampire Diaries. Though nothing was filmed inside the building, Keith Ellis, chair of the BOC, said equipment and vans blocked access to the courthouse.
The show’s production company paid $1,500 to film outside the courthouse, he said. That money goes into an account for employees, he said. “Most likely it will be used to buy turkeys for Thanksgiving.”
Fees were also set for the use of county-owned vehicles and personnel employed by the county.
At the request of the Newton-Covington Chamber of Commerce, the position of “film liaison” was changed to “film coordinator,” and would be filled by the administrative assistant to the County Chair .
Lisa Conner is currently filling that role, and has been doing an excellent job negotiating contracts with production companies, said Chair Keith Ellis.
The ordinance also covered information required by the permit application, including details of planned lane or road closures and the applicant’s security plan, as well as the amount of insurance production companies are required to carry.