New Tyler film ordinance to grow the 'industry of art'


There's no business like show business, and Tyler is working to attract the filmmaking industry to the City of Roses.

The city of Tyler enacted a film ordinance, which outlines the do's and don'ts of filming in Tyler. The move was part of an effort to be designated as "Film-Friendly City" through the Texas Film Commission, a division of the Governor's office.

But the larger goal is to attract filmmakers to the city as a form of economic development.

Tyler Main Street Director Beverley Abell joked that filmmakers are "the flower children of economic development," but emphasized the industry brings real dollars into the community.

"We are serious economic development in fun clothing," she said. "People see us having fun, but what they don't see is the market research done before we start that project, the strategic planning and the training we do before that fun happens. The unseen parts include property research and business research."

Filmmakers stay in Tyler hotels, eat at local restaurants, purchase supplies and hire locals as extras.

"The film industry is a high-growth industry," Ms. Abell said. "More and more young people are choosing filmmaking and studying it. They are an ingredient in a very large recipe that creates a sustainable industry within the arts."

Arts also play a role in traditional economic development. Having a place with identity, culture and other quality of life factors help make Tyler attractive to potential employers.

The city has worked on fostering a filming community for over six years.

It started with the Downtown Film Festival. The first year, the festival had a little over a dozen entries, and those films were repeated over the three-day event.

This year, Tyler received well more than 50 submissions, including Texas and international entries as well as from young filmmakers.

The festival is coming up Sept. 21-24, and the Gallery Main Street is finalizing its list of approved entries.

"A huge part of the point we are making is to encourage that industry and upcoming filmmakers," Ms. Abell said.

That mission is continued through the Mayor's Innovation Pipeline. The business development center and makerspace also will include a place for filmmakers.

The film ordinance, approved by the Tyler City Council last month, was the final piece of a three-part process to receive the Film-friendly designation. It includes sending the people involved in the permitting process to training. An image library of potential filming locations in the community was then created.

Ms. Abell said the image database includes the beautiful Tyler places - historic homes, sports venues, the brick streets, the airport and Municipal Rose Garden - but it also includes less attractive areas. Filmmakers want a variety of options, including abandoned buildings and "anywhere, America" streets, Ms. Abell said.

"Those tree-lined streets we have are very attractive to filmmakers, and the bricks," Ms. Abell said. "We have quite a few buildings on the national register, but they also look for places in need of repair but still have a lot of character."


Regulations are usually a thorn that the industry must abide by, but not for filmmakers, Ms. Abell said.

"They don't see the permitting process as a restriction, but as a permission card - it's validation," Ms. Abell said, adding filming insurance companies generally require a city permit.

The permitting process applies to anything filmed for a commercial purpose: episodic television, documentaries, commercials and feature films.

It does not apply to non-commercial productions, including YouTube videos, Facebook Live shots, family videos and more.

The ordinance covers requests for commercial use of city-owned property, including streets, parks and public buildings as well as for the commercial use of private property that may affect adjacent public or private property.

It establishes a single point of contact, Ms. Abell said, for all interactions.

"I'm so tickled we have the ordinance now," she said "When a filmmaker would call the city, sometimes we would bounce them from department to department trying to figure out who was in charge of this and what we could offer them, structure-wise. There wasn't a whole lot."

The ordinance requires filmmakers to notify neighbors who could be affected by the filming. It also outlines time constraints for cameras to roll. Filmmakers are limited to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and holidays. The city can allow a variance from those times at its discretion.

It also outlines fees for closing public buildings or streets for filming.

Film companies are required to have $1 million in general liability insurance, which includes bodily injury and property damage.

Companies submit an itinerary of filming locations, which the city can share with the police department in case they receive any complaints or questions from the community.

The ordinance also allows the city to keep stats on filming activities in the city to gauge how efforts are going.

The ordinance was immediately successful. This week a British film crew was in town to film a documentary. Ms. Abell said it was a perfect trail run of a new policy.

"The process itself has gone very smoothly," she said.

Twitter: @TMTFaith


Digital Content Manager

Faith Harper is an East Texas native working for her hometown newspaper. She specializes in digital content for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. In her spare time, she loves tacos, road trips and is currently learning to sail.

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