Maple Ridge to temporarily stop issuing film permits in downtown

Downtown Maple Ridge businesses are giving two thumbs down on congestion caused by film crews, so the city is going to "take five" on new applications to film in that part of town.

Industry group says Maple Ridge a natural filming location, but crews need to earn community support

Signs like these, directing film and video crews to sets, are a common sight in Metro Vancouver. In Maple Ridge, motion picture production is booming. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

In Maple Ridge, it's lights, camera and too much action.

The city says businesses are complaining that an increase in filming in the city's downtown is hurting its bottom line by increasing congestion and leaving messes.

As a result, the city has imposed a six-week moratorium on taking applications to film in the city's downtown core as it works on a way to accommodate both filming and downtown shops.

"We value the film industry. What we really want to is solve issues that can be problems in the longer term," said Lino Siracusa, the city's manager of economic development.

"This is a short duration time out and in a very small area … we see this as being minor and we hope that the industry will come back and film in this location and the filming will be very sustainable for a long time."

Siracusa says only the downtown area is affected by the moratorium. The rest of the city is still taking applications for permits.

He adds the moratorium does not affect filming allowed by already-granted permits which will go ahead as planned.

Crews blocking streets, leaving messes

Among the complaints Siracusa has heard are sets using areas where they aren't permitted or not cleaning up in the agreed way.

"I think it might that the industry's busy and some of the crews are inexperienced," he said.

"I don't want to put too much blame on one side or another. I think some of our businesses maybe had different expectations of what was going to take place. Maybe we need to do a better job of communicating with them."

Arnaldo dos Santos, owner of Maple Ridge's Cremino Gelato & Caffè, says while he has heard of businesses in the area complaining about increased congestion and messiness due to film crews, his personal experience has been positive.

"They've brought a lot of business to my shop," said dos Santos. "They come here for coffee. They come here for gelato. They've asked me to stay open after hours and by all means I stay open for them."

While Siracusa says businesses were the source of the complaints, the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association had little to say.

Executive director Ineke Boekhorst said sensitive discussions were taking place about how to handle the film industry's growing presence.

"We are meeting with a group to discuss this and see what we can do," she said.

Siracusa says each day of shooting brings in at least $10,000 in spin-off benefits, which he calls "a very conservative estimate."

He estimates about 1,200 people in Maple Ridge work in the film industry.

City ready for its closeup

Peter Leitch, president of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of B.C., says Maple Ridge is becoming a popular filming spot, especially for movies of the week, which are often shot on a tighter budget.

He says the city offers some great locations, allowing productions to escape the high costs of Vancouver and even take advantage of a provincial tax break for productions shot east of 200th Street.

"It's kind of a natural, the way the industry is growing," he said. "It takes the pressure off the downtown core of Vancouver."

In a way, the constant filming in Maple Ridge is a good sign: it shows how healthy the industry is.

And while the community has been supportive, he says, crews need to act like good neighbours and address problems to keep that support.

Maple Ridge will begin accepting applications again at the end of October.