Crossing over Atlantic Street toward South Battery, the asphalt on Church Street turns to red brick in the historic neighborhood where the privileged call home.
Guidelines in Charlestowne Neighborhood Association
Some of the guidelines include:
Notification to the president of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association by production company upon submitting filming permit to the City of Charleston for a location on or south of Broad Street.
Distribution of flyers with notification of filming information within a two-block radius and prior to five days of filming.
Parking instructions for production crew.
Hiring of uniformed police officers for safety concerns and facilitating street closings.
Restrictions on hours of filming that include: No production activities before 7 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends and not after 11 p.m. Also limiting production to four hours at a time. Locations are not to be used more than twice within one year. Restrictions on filming on certain holidays including the Cooper River Bridge Run.
Suggested donation to the association based on size of the film and scope of the disruption involved. $1,000 per day is the requested donation amount.
Wrought iron gates enclosing mansions and manicured gardens line the street. The picturesque block exudes Charleston charm.
This isn’t the first time downtown neighborhood residents have raised concerns about film and television productions in their backyards. In the past, residents on the lower peninsula complained during filming of both “North and South” and “The Patriot.”
In 1985, “North and South” sparked an uproar among south of Broad residents who didn’t like the long hours of shooting, the difficulty getting to and from their homes, and the loss of parking. There also were the onlookers and film crew who sometimes ended up on their doorsteps, the 500 tons of sand spread on streets to give them a 19th century look, and the bright lights and noise from the production. Some reacted by parking their cars in a way that disrupted camera angles, others threatened to blare beach music from their houses or fly flags from their front porches that wouldn’t match the time period of the movie.
Last week the block became the backdrop for a new reality-television show featuring Southern charmers, including former state treasurer Thomas Ravenel, who’s cocaine conviction halted his political career a few years ago.
On Wednesday, notices hung from many of the home’s copper door knobs — an announcement about the street closing due to filming taking place for the show called “Southern Charm” that will air on Bravo later this year.
Some neighbors were not happy when the show originally scheduled shooting after midnight.
The production company ended up rescheduling the shoot, but neighbors, who anticipate more productions in the future, called it a trial run that came up short.
“It sort of got off on the wrong direction, but rechanneled,” said Stephen Gates, president of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association.
The hiccup led the neighborhood association to adopt new guidelines for filming in their area. It addresses when the production company should provide notice to residents, limitations to hours of filming, and parking and safety guidelines.
That includes hiring uniformed police officers; limiting equipment and vehicle crews arrival before 7 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends and not after 11 p.m.; limiting filming to four hours at a time at the location and the location should not be used more than twice within one year; and restricting filming on certain holidays. It also requests production companies make a donation to the neighborhood association “to preserve the beauty and integrity of the neighborhood” — a suggested $1,000 per day.
The guidelines are modeled on similar ones in the New Orleans Garden District Association, according to Gates.
“Our objective is to strike the right balance between the desire of profit-making ventures to use the unique locations in our historic neighborhood and quiet enjoyment of our homes and preserving that uniqueness,” said Gates.
The move to adopt the guidelines came last week when “Southern Charm,” which began filming this summer, shot on the Church Street neighborhood. Little is known about the project except for its basic plot, said to be a look behind the gates of the centuries-old plantations at modern-day Southern aristocracy.
An air date has not been announced by the network, but the film-industry site, imdb.com lists it as October.
The crew has also been spotted filming around Charleston’s restaurants and bars.
The original notices to the Church Street neighborhood stated that filming would occur until 1 a.m. on Wednesday. “Film crew is aware of the 11 p.m. noise curfew. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you,” it stated.
Gates said he got a call from the production company, but he was under the impression it was for the filming of a documentary.
“Its one thing to film for a documentary for a historical series like PBS,” he said. “It’s another thing for a profit-making organization to use our streets, disturbing our citizens.”
His biggest concern was the timing of the filming, the late hours during a weeknight, despite the production company’s awareness of the noise ordinance after 11 p.m., he said. “It’s almost impossible not to make some sort of noise at 1 in the morning,” Gates said.
Charleston City Councilman Mike Seekings, who represents the lower peninsula, said it’s important to find a balance between the economy-boosting perks of productions like this one and disrupting people’s lives.
“We have to do it with the conjunction of reality that this is somewhere people live,” Seekings said. “I think we need to look at ways to responsibly grow our economy in Charleston. That being said, we need to do it in a reasonable and proportionate way.”
The city’s Office of Cultural Affairs issued the permit for the shoot. Gates said there was a lapse in communication and he was only hearing from the production company. The city’s Office of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability later stepped in and touched base with the cultural affairs office, Gates said.
Shortly afterward, the production company placed new flyers, with adjusted filming times before 11 p.m. While the issue was resolved, it raises questions about the future, Gates said.
He’d like neighbors to get more notice so that residents can make arrangements for parking and other activities they may have planned. It will certainly be a topic of discussion as more productions flock to the Lowcountry after the South Carolina legislature passed a film incentives bill earlier this year.
“Army Wives,” the Lifetime drama, has been shooting in Charleston for years and a new CBS legal-drama, was just picked up for it’s first season, will also be shot in Charleston later this month.
“As it becomes a steadier stream of commerce, we need to make sure we keep face and facilitate it properly,” Seekings said.
Seekings said they need to make sure the city and production companies coordinate their efforts in notifying neighborhoods of street closings and filming.
“We don’t need to create a new department,” Seekings said. “We should use the resources we already have and centralize it.”
On Wednesday afternoon, a camera sat atop a tall crane and panned across the slanted sidewalks of Church Street. No big crowds gathered to gawk, but a few curious tourists took a stroll down the deserted street that had been blocked off to cars.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.