Lights, camera, permit: Boise considers rules for film productions in public spaces

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A few years ago Boiseans were enjoying downtown when quite the commotion broke out. 

There was a car chase, firearms, and what appeared to be a bank robbery in progress, all in broad daylight. The phones at the Ada County emergency dispatch center started ringing with complaints and concerns about public safety. 

Except none of it was real. It was the film set of a Toyota commercial. 

This incident and the growing popularity of Boise’s public spaces for commercials and film productions sparked a City of Boise proposal to create an ordinance requiring any professional filmography that will impact the community to receive a permit from the city. City staff is still working out the details of the ordinance and what the permits will cost, but it is expected to come before the city council for a vote by the end of August. 

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to minimize impacts,” Boise Deputy City Clerk Jaime Heinzerling told council. “We want to make it easy for the film industry to come in and do business in Boise, but also to minimize impacts to our citizens and the community.” 

What is proposed

In order to avoid a repeat of the Toyota commercial or other issues with unapproved music video shoots, commercials and other professional operations, any film projects that would impact the public would need to alert the city and receive a permit. 

Heinzerling said the purpose of the ordinance is for the city to help increase awareness of film production that will impact the public so the city can plan resources to accommodate the shoot and to raise awareness in the community it is happening. A permit would be required on any public property and on private property if the film has any elements to it that would heavily impact the public. 

These impacts include:

  • If production will take place between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
  • Require street closures, firearms or include excessive noise
  • Include the presence of dangerous animals, nudity, drones, generators or other heavy equipment
  • Any disruption to car or pedestrian traffic. 

This ordinance would not apply to personal films, like taking a video of your child playing at the park or at a wedding, the news media, still photography, or student or charitable films. But, if a student or charitable film does include any elements the city says are heavily impactful to the community, a permit would be required. 

Liability insurance will be required, and the production will need to give the city the working title of the project, days, times, and locations for filming, the number of production personnel involved in the project, and information about the nature of what filming will entail. 

Council gives the go-ahead, but with some tweaks

City Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings said his proposal was on the right track, but she encouraged the clerk’s office to do more research on cities with smaller film communities instead of just established markets like Los Angeles or Atlanta. She said Boise should encourage the film industry to grow, not weigh creators down with unnecessary regulations. 

“Our state has never been very supportive (of the film industry), but it is an opportunity for us to showcase our best assets and attract a new industry into the city,” Woodings said. “I would encourage working with some of the smaller filmmakers and refining (the ordinance) based on that so we can make sure we’re encouraging and we’re not just creating a regulatory burden that discourages folks from coming here to do this work.”

City Council President Elaine Clegg agreed, but she noted that just because a film is small doesn’t mean it won’t potentially disrupt the public. 

“At the same time I would say just that you’re a small indie filmmaker doesn’t mean you won’t want to crash a car or do something else that could cause some real problems,” Clegg said. “In addition to size, we do want to look at the complexity and the kinds of actions that are being proposed.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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