Filming in Dundas: banned or not banned?

Dundas Coun. Arlene Vanderbeek says filming in Dundas isn’t dead and never was. But the film industry says it is getting a new message from the city today than it had previously.

Dundas councillor issues statement after facing criticism online and from industry members

Murdoch Mysteries is one of the many shows that has filmed in Dundas in recent years. (CBC)

Dundas Coun. Arlene Vanderbeek says filming in Dundas isn't dead – as long as entire productions happen on private property and follow strict guidelines that the councillor herself admits would be challenging.

After criticism on social media and from the industry, Vanderbeek issued a lengthy message Friday that outlined concerns with the film industry setting up shop in Dundas, but clarified that film permits could still be issued. 

While Vanderbeek said in her statement all she was doing was clarifying the town's stance on filming — it did not say she was modifying her position — the statement has resulted in a new message going out to the industry from the city's film office.

New message to industry

The original stance, as the The Ontario Media Development Corporation understood it when it sent out its "In the Loop" newsletter, was of a ban on filming projects through 2017 in the valley town.

Almost two-dozen Dundas filming locations were also listed as off limits on the OMDC's website, which said there is a moratorium on filming in place until around summer 2017.

However, on Friday, OMDC spokesperson Sharon Wilson said that things had changed "based on discussions with the city today."

"It's not red flagged as it was yesterday," she said. Dundas originally said filming was off limits, but on Friday said it would be examined on a "case by case basis," she said.

In her statement, Vanderbeek says film permits "could and would be approved" as normal if filming can take place entirely on private property, and if the production wouldn't be "interrupted by or be an interruption to" capital construction projects or their "subsequent fallout."

"The challenge is that we can't know exactly when or what these impacts will be, at this time and location managers are looking for locations they can depend on," Vanderbeek wrote.

Wilson would not comment on how feasible it is for film crews to meet those conditions.

Many citizen concerns

The issues with filming in Dundas, the Ward 13 councillor writes, are multifaceted. Film crews prize the town for its rustic and classic looking downtown and housing stock – to the point that 16 productions filmed in town last year.

That has resulted in "many citizen concerns," she says, especially in light of several capital construction projects taking place over the next three years.

Vanderbeek lists a lengthy number of issues involving film crews, including:

  • Last minute permits
  • Neighbourhoods not being notified properly
  • Trucks parked where they shouldn't be
  • Crew vehicles taking up parking
  • People who can't get to their own homes properly
  • Traffic stoppages
  • Night filming
  • Crews smoking on sidewalks making it "uncomfortable for passerby"
  • Spectators crowding around filming
  • Garbage strewn around

VanderBeek hosted the town hall meeting on the possible ban two weeks ago. Between 12 and 14 residents were there.

Since news of the ban came out, an online petition was launched in the town to have it overturned. As of 1 p.m. it has just over 500 signatures.

Series are more of a problem

Dundas BIA chair Phyllis Kraemer suggested the fact that the series The Good Witch was planning to film in the town was part of the reason behind the push for a ban.

"Doing a series really changes it up considerably," said Kraemer.

Because of the three-year moratorium, The Good Witch's production company is looking to other parts of Hamilton and as far as Guelph to recreate the fictional town for the series. The original film, which was later turned into a series on the Hallmark Channel, was filmed in Dundas.

"We probably would have gone somewhere else if we'd known this was coming," said Morton Dorrell of the show's production team.

He added that no one from the city notified or announced the change, but he became aware of it two weeks earlier, when he was asked to leave the town hall meeting by the councillor.



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