Often referred as a primary destination for wine tasting, Niagara-on-the-Lake could also be seen as the ideal location to film a movie about wine. That was the plan for a Toronto production company, but town staff and council closed the curtains on that project.
Alex Broughton, on behalf of Chesler Perlmutter Productions Inc., came before council on March 22 in hopes they would direct staff to provide a permit to allow the company to film in the Heritage District.
“It’s a movie about icewine and what better place to do a movie about wine but (in) Niagara-on-the-Lake,” Broughton said.
The plan for the company is to film at Peller Estate Winery this week, but on Monday and Tuesday next week they had hoped to film some town shots on Queen Street, as well as between the Courthouse and Just Christmas, in the parking lot behind Just Christmas, in front of Cheese Secrets and at Hatley Boutique.
“I’ve already talked to all the businesses that we are impacting directly, and everyone seems to be happy to have us,” Broughton said. “We tried to keep our impact as small as possible.”
He further commented that the film industry has very strict COVID-19 protocols that include the cast to be tested every three days, the company has hired a COVID medic to check everyone each day, and masks and face shields must be worn both inside and outside.
The film crew would exceed the maximum 25 people allowed to gather outdoors under the Ontario red-zone regulations, but Broughton said people will be dispersed through different locations.
Clerk Peter Todd told council that the town on March 11 did receive a request from the company to permit filming in the Heritage District.
“At that time, we did not have a complete application so we did notify the applicant of what would be required and at that time we also informed the (town) emergency control group that the request had come in,” Todd said.
The applicant has since submitted the documents requested, but Todd went on to say that there hasn’t been an opportunity to circulate the information and have staff review it in detail.
Chief administrative officer Marnie Cluckie said it typically takes four to six weeks to review such a request.
Town staff have to make sure there is minimal impact on businesses, garbage collection is addressed, a fire safety plan is implemented, road closures are reviewed, both fire services and paramedics are notified, a COVID-19 plan is in place and a number of other things.
“The time of which (the applicant) submitted it, there wasn’t adequate time for that circulation,” Cluckie said. “For that reason, we declined their request.”
Coun. Norm Arsenault asked if council were to approve the permit could the requirements be met next week.
“I do not believe at this time we have sufficient time either,” Cluckie said.
Arsenault then asked what a possible timeline for staff could be.
“If council were to ask us to expedite it, we could complete the review in three to four weeks,” Cluckie said. “I think we would be putting our community at risk if we were to try to expedite further.”
Cluckie also pointed out that staff have many other expectations on their agenda currently, specifically mentioning bylaw enforcement, COVID-19 and reviewing short-term rentals, and that this request would only add additional pressure.
Council had no further discussion and ultimately the film permit request was denied.