City of Lincoln – A Better Fit For Filmmakers

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A better fit for filmmakers?

City officials are working to streamline the permit process for filming in Lincoln just in time to make it easier for Alexander Payne to use Capital City locations in his new movie, titled “Nebraska.”

But Payne was not the specific impetus for the changes, said Laurie Richards, Nebraska film officer.

Work on simplifying the system began before the director announced his plans to shoot a movie in the state this fall, and is the result of suggestions from other local producers, Richards said.

Several Nebraska companies called her with concerns that Lincoln’s film application process was much more “laborious” than those in other communities, Richards said, so she passed on the concerns to Mayor Chris Beutler’s staff.

The proposed changes are on Monday’s City Council agenda for the first time, and a public hearing will be held at the Sept. 24 council meeting.

One change would eliminate the requirement of a $5,000 assurity bond intended to protect the city from property damage such as broken street signs or cracks in the street, said Rick Hoppe, Beutler’s chief of staff. He said the bond is expensive, and getting it is a time-consuming process.

The city would be required to have coverage under a $1 million public liability insurance policy.

The mayor’s office also is eyeing a new, $45 permit specifically for filming, an alternative to the more generic special use permits the city requires now, Hoppe said.

Companies filming in Lincoln are required to get permits to use any public property, including parks, streets and sidewalks, or if they will be asking for city assistance, such as having streets closed or parking meters hooded.

Companies will continue to be charged for the cost of services provided by police, public works or other city departments.

Lincoln does not want to be at a competitive disadvantage, said Mike Lang, an economic development aide to the mayor. Filming in Lincoln brings money to local businesses, but it’s also a marketing opportunity for the city when its locations are pictured in movies and commercials, he said.

Lang helped craft the proposed changes as part of a special committee. He said their ideas also were presented to several producers.

The permit application would go from 14 pages to four.

“That’s a start,” said Jamie Vesay, a Nebraska producer who has filmed two commercials in Lincoln.

There are no specific statewide regulations on the filming industry, so it is up to individual communities to work with production companies.

Lincoln’s process might be cumbersome for now, but Vesay said a pair of city employees — Greg Topil with public works and Dave Norris with the mayor’s office — “stand out as champions” and have gone out of their way to help filmmakers.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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