Changes to Newport Beach movie policy filed after lack of community input


Although some members of the community have complained in recent months about Newport Beach’s movie permission policies, no one from the public showed up at a city council study session on Tuesday to provide input, so members chose to table the discussion for now.

Councilwoman Diane Dixon brought the article to council for consideration after a Balboa Fun Zone business owner complained about the impact on her bottom line when foot traffic was closed for the filming of a feature film called “Jesus Revolution”, a film about Orange County pastor Greg Laurie, which stars comedian Jim Gaffigan.

Dixon said she received a few complaints about the shooting, from residents and contractors. But she also noted that by calling for discussion, she wasn’t trying to discourage film productions from coming to town.

“We have a beautiful city and we should make sure everyone has the opportunity to see it, but I’m sensitive to commercial impacts as well as residential impacts,” she said.

Newport Beach requires a permit if a project involves the staging, shooting, making, capturing, taking or recording of images for commercial or professional purposes, both on public and private properties . Any filming in town must not disturb the flow of traffic or pedestrians and may not affect public tranquility or local residents.

The city requires production to take place between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., seven days a week. Notification must be given to all residences and businesses within 500 feet of a filming location at least 48 hours prior to filming .

There are currently no limits on how often a location can be used for filming, nor are there any existing blackout dates, times or locations for granting filming permit.

City Chief Financial Officer Scott Catlett said about 200 to 300 filming permits are issued each year in Newport Beach. The majority of productions seeking permits are reality shows – around 53% – followed by stills at 20%. By comparison, feature films make up only about 3% of the city’s film permits.

The city works with FilmLA to issue the permits. Catlett said five complaints have been filed with both FilmLA and city staff over the past year. Four were residential and resolved, but the fifth was commercial in nature and came from the Balboa Fun Zone during the filming of “Jesus Revolution”.

Tony George, owner of Surfside Pick Your Print, and other business owners in or around the Balboa Fun Zone in April said they received little notice before the film crew shut down part of the promenade during the last weekend of the spring break season, a decision that negatively affected their sales.

Mayor Pro Tem Noah Blom told Tuesday’s study session that he felt the city had a good handle on filming permits and saw no need for additional restrictions. Although there was a trade complaint, Blom said it wasn’t necessarily a sign of a bigger problem that needed fixing.

“There will always be a complaint. Our response cannot be to run to the complaint to change policy,” Blom said.

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