Last week Washington Filmworks had an interesting series of calls from concerned individuals in the southeast corner of the state, between Clarkston, WA and Lewiston, ID. Word was that a film crew was in the Lewis-Clark Valley and people had become uneasy when they spotted a U.S. Border Patrol boat pursuing two other vessels that appeared to be Vietnam-era patrol boats, complete with large caliber guns mounted on the front. An area resident boldly approached to inquire what was going on, and to let the involved parties know that the activity was frightening people. Reportedly, a person in uniform told the individual the filming was secret and that the crew had not alerted anyone due to the hush-hush nature of the project. This made the individual suspicious, which prompted a call to a local radio station, which then prompted calls to Washington Filmworks and the Idaho Film Office.
We frequently assist productions looking for regional or municipal film liaisons and often connect filmmakers with points of contact for permitting. This particular production was not on our radar and a series of calls to our contacts in the area proved that it wasn’t on anyone else’s either. This troubled us; the activity was alarming residents at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers, as well as people who were using the water recreationally. We contacted the U.S. Border Patrol to see if they could shed some light on the situation and asked if a representative would speak with the individuals who had called, to ease apprehensions. However the Border Patrol told us they were not filming anything on the rivers, nor were they aware of any production that was using one of their boats. At this point, they seemed concerned as well.
We were fairly certain this was guerrilla production and by the afternoon we heard that there was a resolution to the situation. A boat manufacturer, who builds replica boats, had organized a promotional shoot, but had not contacted local agencies to inform them they would be in the area. The production was apparantly simulating chases near other boaters, and this, coupled with the gun replicas and the cast in uniform, finally prompted a visit from the Asotin County Sheriff. The production was told to mask over the Border Patrol emblems on one of the crafts and was reminded that impersonating an officer was an offense that could land the actors in jail.
Part of Washington Filmworks’ mission is to connect filmmakers with resources in the regions they film in so that they can work safely and uninterrupted. Almost every county in the state has a film permitting process and we can help you find the right people to talk to. Clearly this situation confirms that a crew can alarm the community they are working in, and major problems can arise when they fail to alert the proper authorities. The producers may have intended to fly under the radar, but by the end of the day several visitors’ bureaus, a radio station, two state film offices, the local authorities, and the Border Patrol had become involved.
Washington offers numerous stunning locations to serve as the perfect setting for all kinds of production, but our industry must also be cognizant that we share those spaces with residents, businesses, tourists and recreational users. Film wisely, make smart decisions, and go through the proper channels, especially when your project involves chases, stunts and weapons. And please don’t hesitate to let us know how we can help – that’s exactly what we’re here for.