Council gets close up of Hollywood impacts on business merchants

November 02, 2005
Santa Paula City Council

A City Council discussion on handing over filming oversight responsibilities to Limoneira Co. turned into a close up of Hollywood impacts on downtown business merchants at the October 17 meeting.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesA City Council discussion on handing over filming oversight responsibilities to Limoneira Co. turned into a close up of Hollywood impacts on downtown business merchants at the October 17 meeting. The council was considering a $15,000 contract with Limoneira, which has launched its own filming division, to provide administration services for filming within city limits.Sarah Skeels told the council that Limoneira would provide filming services including reviewing and updating all administrative documents, marketing, trade show attendance, a DVD asset library of area locations, and brochures, among other services, that would ease doing city business with film makers. Skeels said that a database would be built of past and potential film customers, and that all postproduction invoicing and filing would be handled by Limoneira. “We believe that by combining our resources, we’ll both reap the benefits of increased film revenues within our borders,” noted Skeels.Councilman John Procter wanted confirmation that the needs of downtown merchants would also be met.Merchant Jess Victoria said that production companies “bring their own contracts” when they film locally, a situation that is backwards. The city should craft a contract “beneficial to us and not the outsiders...” that offers varying levels of compensation.“We don’t have a set price, we don’t have a voice downtown,” said Victoria. Local customers are more valued than “Hollywood stars, they disrupt the whole town” and look at Santa Paulans as “hayseeds.”Merchant Richard Garcia has been very active in pre-filming arrangements, noted Councilman Ray Luna, who questioned Victoria’s claims that contact is not always made with production affected businesses.City Attorney Karl Berger said that the city’s responsibility is limited to city resources impacted, although the legality of the city preparing a standardized contract for businesses could be investigated.
Santa Paula Times co-owner Debbie Johnson, former president of the Downtown Merchants Association, was asked by the council to offer comment. Johnson noted that she was also representing the Chamber of Commerce, which held “very extensive meetings” with the DMA about seven years ago to address filming issues. All downtown merchants were invited to participate, and “Some showed up, others didn’t,” she noted.The group investigated filming in other communities, and it took “two years of hard work beating the sidewalks” to form a policy. “In past years, we’ve had a good response from 95 percent of the merchants,” a majority of whom must approve filming. A recent shoot for the film Mr. Woodcock was lucrative to many area businesses, Johnson noted.“Ninety-nine percent of the time we have complete participation from the merchants.... We do hold public meetings, send agendas out,” and make every effort to ensure that each merchant has been contacted, including business visits. “...We have not had the funding to reach out, but know the filming community is very pleased with us,” ranking Santa Paula as an excellent resource for locations.Financial arrangements between film companies and merchants are one on one, but in the “immediate filming area” merchants generally receive $200 a day in impact fees, and more if the business itself is utilized. Film companies advertise that businesses are open and access is available, she added.“We always told the merchants that if they want to open their books up, that is between them and film company” to negotiate merchant fees. Some merchants claim to have an income higher than reality, she noted.In addition, the SPDMA “represents everyone in the downtown.... We only charge $20” annually, much of it spent on collaborative advertising or for special downtown events.“I’m confused” that Victoria stated that he never met anyone from the DTMA, said Vice Mayor Rick Cook. The full council approved the contract with Limoneira.

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