News Column

Georgetown County Council passes second reading of film ordinance

October 9, 2013


Oct. 09--Georgetown County Council on Tuesday unanimously and quickly passed second reading of a proposed film ordinance that regulates the time, manner and place associated with future filming activities along the Waccamaw Neck.

Council passed the measure at its meeting Tuesday night, and the ordinance moves on to a third reading. The ordinance places "reasonable restrictions" on time frames associated with the filming and requires notice and due diligence on behalf of the county.

The ordinance, a response to resident complaints during the summer about the behavior of the cast and crew from an as yet unnamed reality show, went through five major revisions and was reviewed by county staff, attorneys and residents before being presented to council.

"There was input from residents, and many of their suggestions were incorporated in the final draft," said Jerry Oakley, Georgetown County councilman.

Murrells Inlet resident Leon Rice was the only resident to speak during public comment at the meeting, but he said he was speaking for several residents' concerns about future filming along the Neck. His house is located next to Kings Krest, which housed the reality television cast this summer.

"This ordinance is good for the community," Rice said. "It tends to balance the interests of the community, which is what a good ordinance does."

The proposed law comes after CMT announced a reality show that was filmed in Murrells Inlet during the summer, shuffling the cast in from all over the south and housing them at Kings Krest, an old waterfront home on the marsh. Residents complained to council about the noise, trash and obscene language coming from the cast and crew, and many pleaded for council's intervention.

CMT has not announced an official name for the show or when it will run. but filming wrapped up at the end of August.

Charleston and Columbia already have filming ordinances in place, and some of Georgetown County's ordinance was based around the two cities' statutes.

"A lot of heads have reviewed it, commented on it, and thought about how to apply it correctly," Oakley said. "All of that came together to determine what Georgetown County needs."

If passed, any film permits would require a $1,000 fee per application and should be submitted a minimum of 45 business days prior to filming. Both the county administrator and the county sheriff are provided with enforcement capabilities, and protections are in place against light pollution.

"It invites the film company to come back, but with a permit; we like that," Rice said.

The ordinance also adds protections dealing with traffic and parking, and insurance requirements to reduce county liability associated with film permits.

Any work related to the filming, including site work, preparation and staging, must occur between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., and the county's concrete noise ordinance still applies to the cast and crew.

Prior to any filming, the applicant must disclose specific sites involved in the filming, property owners name, written permission and contact information, anticipated hours and number of days needed to film, and a detailed statement of the nature of filmed activities.

Any activity which could cause public alarm, such as pyrotechnics, gunfire or use of animals, must also be disclosed before any filming. Residents and businesses within 500 feet of any filming activity must be notified at least 30 days before the cameras start rolling.

Reality shows won't be the only medium affected by the bill, however; the ordinance requires a permit for any "film, video television, or movie activity," whether on private or public property.

"We don't want to send the message that we don't want production companies, because we do want production companies," Oakley said. "We just need some restrictions on it."

Each person associated with the filming, in any way, is considered part of the cast and crew, and the county administrator has the authority to determine the total number of participants.

All lighting related to the filming is required to be oriented away from any residential neighborhoods and "shall not interfere with safe movement of traffic." The ordinance also requires the lights to shy away from the Atlantic Ocean after dark, to protect sea life.

Several residents complained to council about the trash left after the filming crew ceased filming at the site, which prompted a "condition and cleanup" section of the ordinance. All site locations must be restored to pre-filming conditions within seven days after the filming stops, and no alterations to any county-owned property are allowed without consent from the county administrator.

The filming agency must hold three $1,000,000 insurance policies covering: bodily injury and death; automotive liability; and worker's compensation, respectively.

Most of the enforcement power comes from the county administrator, who can revoke a permit any time if the ordinance's terms are not followed. If the permit is revoked, all filming activities must stop immediately.

Any action "in violation of this ordinance shall be considered a misdemeanor," which has a $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail, according to the document. The Georgetown County Sheriff also has the authorization to shut down work and issue citations, if necessary.

Final approval is scheduled for council's next meeting on October 22.

Oakley said the ordinance will likely pass the final hearing without much trouble, since he's "never known council to change its mind between the second and third reading."

Contact CLAIRE BYUN at 626-0377 or follow her at


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