Canada: Filming has downtown business owners seeing red

Canada: Filming has downtown business owners seeing red

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Forum focuses on finding solutions with film crews

Black Cat owner John Rutherford is anything but starstruck.

He said the six productions filmed in the downtown core since the summer have had a negative impact on his Durham Street convenience store’s bottom line.

Rutherford said his business lost $1,500 when Durham Street was shut down for filming one day in the summer.

“It’s getting so that when people see film crews and trucks in downtown Sudbury, they turn around and head the other way,” he said. “It’s that bad.”

This past weekend, with the filming of The Returned, bags were placed on top of parking meters throughout the downtown, including on Durham Street, to stop citizens from parking there.

Local businesses were notified that the street would be used from 11 p.m. Oct. 27 until 11 p.m. Oct. 28, he said, but the meters were blocked off as of the morning of Oct. 27.

“That’s a really big issue for us,” Rutherford said. “We said we’d take the bags off. The police were sent. They told us the roadway belongs to the city, and they city can do anything at all it wants to do with the streets.”

He was finally able to come to an agreement with the film crew, putting up signs on the parking meters which said “After 3 p.m., for film crews only.”

In some cases, Rutherford said he’s only been given two days’ notice before film crews literally show up on his doorstep. He’d like to be given a week to 10 days’ notice instead.

“The city has got to get tough with this,” he said.

As for whether film crews are spending money in his business, Rutherford said they only spent about $50 at his store Oct. 29.

Rutherford was among about 50 people at a Oct. 29 forum on making the local film industry a “positive experience for all, including downtown business owners.” The event was put on by the City of Greater Sudbury and Downtown Sudbury.

The road closures have also impacted the Durham Street candy store Bou Bah Lou 2, according to the store’s manager, Sandra Lautenschlager.

“I don’t get my regular customers that want to come in, because they end up avoiding coming downtown, because they’ve heard on the radio there’s street closures and stuff,” she said.

“I also have the daycare right next door to me. So if those mothers are frustrated in getting their kids out of the daycare, they aren’t going to pop in and see me before they go home.”

On the other hand, Bou Bah Lou 2 recently received a contract to make up bags of candy for the cast and crew working on a film production.

As for the forum, Lautenschlager said it’s a good thing.

“I’m hoping that we’re going to get a few things resolved.”

Those at the event came up with a number of ideas to deal with the problems downtown business owners have been experiencing.

This includes bagging parking meters as late as possible, better communication with business owners about upcoming filming, keeping one lane open to traffic and providing information about local businesses to film crews so they’ll know what’s available in the city.

Maureen Luoma, executive director of Downtown Sudbury, said the local filming industry has grown by “leaps and bounds” this year, and with it have come a lot of concerns from her members.

“They’re saying ‘We know it’s great for the community and it’s great for Northern Ontario, but we don’t want to lose money because you’re doing filming,’” she said.

“I don’t know that there’s anything insurmountable that can’t be fixed, but unless we bring it to the attention of the city … and work with the movie people, there’s no sense complaining.”

Meredith Armstrong, the city’s manager of tourism and culture, said she knows the rapid growth in the local film industry has caused a lot of logistical problems, especially for downtown business owners.

But she said the city will work quickly to implement the ideas brought up at the forum.

“I think it was a really open discussion with all the players,” she said. “We came up with some really good, actionable items that we can move forward, even some of them within the next few weeks.”

Among those at the forum was Alex Jordan, the production manager of The Returned, as well as The Truth, which filmed in the city last year.

He said he thought it was a good opportunity for local business owners and those in the film industry to start a dialogue.

“Listening to people tonight, one of the big things I heard was that it was disruptive on Sunday because we had bagged the meters,” Jordan said. “The businesses that were in the area where we were shooting didn’t feel that they could have their businesses run.”

In general, though, Jordan maintains filming is good for local businesses, including those in the downtown. He said The Returned will spend about $200,000 to put its cast and crew up in local hotels and to cover their living expenses. That doesn’t include the money cast and crew might decide to spend themselves.

But local businesses could be doing a better job of tapping into that money, Jordan said.

“Maybe if there’s film crew shooting downtown, businesses that are closed should open,” he said. “We do have a crew of 65 to 70 people that are standing around, and they like to shop. They get bored. Our business is all about hurry up and wait.”

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