Tahoe film permit process eased
March 27, 2009
Lake Tahoe residents might see more filmmakers and photographers this summer because of an expedited film-permit process that could take effect in a month.
“This should bring a lot of money into the basin,” said El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago, who helped faciliate a meeting between all the parties involved to forge an agreement.
A National Environmental Policy Act agreement will allow filmmakers to obtain film permits more easily because the certain sites are preapproved, said Cheva Heck, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of proposed actions, such as filming movies, and to prepare a detailed environmental impact statement.
The agreement will speed up the permit process for the next five years for a dozen locations around the lake that are developed, such as Valhalla, the Tallac Historic Site and Taylor Creek, Heck said.
“It will benefit everyone, because it reduces our staff time on individual requests, speeds up the film crew’s timeline and benefits the counties by bringing money to the basin,” Heck said.
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A similar agreement expired two years ago, and hadn’t been renewed until now, Heck said.
The process used to take 30 days, said Kathleen Dodge, executive director of the El Dorado Lake Tahoe Film & Media Office.
It took longer because individual analysis had to be done for each permit application, Heck said. The preapproved list of locations will make the permit process much faster, she said.
Many of Dodge’s clients couldn’t wait a month. Sometimes filmmakers have only a week to turn a whole project around.
“It’s a very competitive industry,” Dodge said. “They come in, do their business, spend money, leave and go home.”
Now that the permitting process will be easier, she thinks the area will have many film studios taking advantage of Lake Tahoe’s scenery.
“I appreciate the cooperation and extreme willingness to make this happen,” Dodge said. “This wouldn’t be possible without the Forest Service’s effort.”
The expedited process is also perfectly timed because of the tax incentives that will take effect in July, Dodge said.
The new California state budget has tax incentives for film studios that choose to film in the state, Dodge said. Lake Tahoe has been a location for a number of motion pictures, including “Smokin’ Aces,” “City of Angels” and “The Bodyguard.”
Residents can also participate in productions, Dodge said. For example, the cabin at Fallen Leaf Lake in “The Bodyguard” was a private residence, Dodge said.
People can submit their business to be a vendor, or their name to the crew directory at the El Dorado Lake Tahoe Film & Media Office Web site, Dodge said.