Filming on Private Property in East Hampton Now Requires Permit

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Supervisor Larry Cantwell (center) and the East Hampton Town Board.

By Christine Sampson

Film and photography shoots on private property in East Hampton Town are now subject to a permit process similar to that required for shoots on public property, after the East Hampton Town Board amended its filming regulations on Tuesday.

Film industry professionals and photographers wishing to work on private properties will now have to apply for a permit at least seven days in advance of their shoots, although the town clerk’s office, which will issue the permits, will have the discretion to turn permits around more quickly for projects on shorter notice. The amendment takes away a previous aspect that exempted crews of five or fewer. The new rules also put in place a mechanism for the town to step in and suspend a photo shoot or film production if an emergency arises.

Filming and shooting on public property was already subject to an application process prior to Tuesday’s town board vote. East Hampton Village also requires permits for shooting on both public and private property.

The law was approved over the objections of local film industry professionals, who lobbied Tuesday and at an April 6 public hearing to extract still photographers from the filming crew requirements, and for a separate exemption that would allow small projects, which they defined as fewer than 20 people, to be exempt from the film permitting process.

“I appreciate and share your views completely about the large-scale filming out here and that it should be regulated so that our community is better protected for safety and any disruption,” Jenny Landey, a local location scout, said Tuesday. “It is unfortunate that these smaller shoots will suffer … and revenue to our towns, to our hotels, to our caterers, to our hardware stores will go to other areas. That’s why I ‘ve been fighting so hard. In essence, we have every state in our country wooing the film industry for the revenue it brings in. These small shoots are under the radar. They are, to my knowledge, hardly ever an issue.”

The amendment was first defeated on April 6 by a split decision on a vote following the public hearing, with board members Peter Van Scoyoc, Sylvia Overby and Fred Overton voting against the measure.

Mr. Overton said Tuesday he remained concerned for the smaller film and photography operations in town.

“It’s unfortunate that the little fish gets caught up in the net that we throw out for the big fish that are using our resources,” he said, later casting a vote in favor of the same legislation he had opposed just days before.

Prior to taking a vote on Tuesday, the town board heard an opinion from NancyLynn Thiele, assistant town attorney, who said it would not be legally possible to distinguish between still photography and cinematic photography in crafting the legislation.

“There is no way to differentiate the public policy and the protection of the public’s interest,” Ms. Thiele said. “The concern would be that it would be based upon content, which obviously is unconstitutional.”

The new film permit rules passed unanimously on Tuesday.

“We’re going to do everything we can to try and make it work administratively for these smaller print shoots and things,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said. “We pledge that to you. And we know the clerk’s office will work very closely to make sure we work together to accommodate your needs.”

On Wednesday, councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who had a role in developing the changes, said she feels the new rules will positively affect safety and quality of life in the town.

“It’s not an onerous process to get the permit. It’s really just notifying the town,” she said. “I really don’t think that it will change the way folks will operate. The Hamptons are a beautiful backdrop.”

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