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Council rejects film moratorium

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By David Giuliani

Before a standing-room-only crowd, the Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday rejected the idea of a moratorium on film productions in town.

The idea was to stop all movie projects until the city could revise its ordinances to better protect businesses and residents.

Instead, the council agreed to hold a special meeting with public input as early as next week to address possible ways the city could handle movie productions.

Council members Andrew Feldman and Diane Moore voted against drafting a moratorium, while Morris Madrid and Cruz Roybal supported it. Mayor Marquez broke the tie against the moratorium.

Las Vegas has a long history with movie projects, going back to the early part of the last century. Among the more recent movies have been “No Country for Old Men” and “Astronaut Farmer.”

Representatives of local merchants told the council that movie companies don’t adequately compensate them and that there isn’t good communication about schedules for shooting scenes.

Others, however, warned that passing a moratorium would send the wrong message to the film industry, which they say has benefited the Meadow City economically.

Those who called for a moratorium insisted they weren’t against filming in Las Vegas but that they wanted more rules.

Nancy Colalillo, owner of Tome on the Range on Bridge Street, suggested the city create an ordinance with enforcement provisions, set a menu of charges for use of various parts of the city, require deposits from companies in case of damage or default, and promote better communication from movie companies.

“Why does it seem easier for a film company to do business in Las Vegas than for a business that’s in Las Vegas?” she said. “We are tired of empty promises each film makes in order to get permitted (by the city). We are not looking for an end to the film industry in Las Vegas. We need and want an equitable solution.”

Eric Valdez, chairman of the Las Vegas Film Commission, argued against a moratorium.

“We feel that by stopping all permits, it is sending a bad message to film companies,” he said. “(Movie productions) bring a lot of money to Las Vegas... We are working on an ordinance to make things better for the people.”

Joseph Lujan, co-owner of XXIII Production Services, a local company that works with film companies, said he is trying to make sure movie productions do business locally. Many residents have complained that the companies buy goods and services in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

Lujan said his firm is creating a film guide that includes all of the services available in town. He said he remembers an instance when a production company went out of town for ice when there are three local companies that provide such a service.

When the council took up the matter, Feldman immediately proposed that the council drop the word “moratorium” and hold a special meeting to get public input, then make immediate changes.

He called for fair compensation for merchants when film projects cause business to dry up. He also said the community couldn’t let any filming interfere with Fiestas, Heritage Week or the Rough Rider Motorcycle Rally.

Councilman Cruz Roybal said he knows what local businesses are going through. He said he remembers a film company years ago treating him shabbily when he had a business in the Railroad area, cutting him off from his customers.

“I know how these people feel. I don’t think there’s anyone against the goose that lays the golden egg, as long as it’s shared fairly,” Roybal said.

After the council voted against the moratorium, staffers said they would work to organize the special meeting.