Some downtown Abbotsford merchants say film shoots affecting business

But others contend that the increasing number of movie crews shooting downtown are contributing thousands to local business.

An increasing number of film shoots downtown has left some merchants complaining about the effect on their businesses.

An increasing number of film shoots downtown has left some merchants complaining about the effect on their businesses.

As cameras roll on the second movie shoot this month in downtown Abbotsford, several merchants are complaining about the impact that filming is having on their businesses.

While film shoots have been cited for having a positive economic impact on the city and nearby businesses, Raeleen Tillotson of Pro One Uniforms says the closure of sidewalks and the impact on parking has impacted her bottom line.

The final straw, she said, came earlier this month, when a shoot coincided with the start of the school year – traditionally the busiest time of the year for her business.

Crews have been taking up more than their allocated parking spots and blocking the sidewalk, she said.

“We’re working among film crews … that don’t really care about how they’re affecting the local business,” she said.

Last Friday, Tillotson launched a petition requesting that the city ask downtown merchants whether filming should continue in the area.

Asked about the complaints, the City of Abbotsford noted that crews can offer affected merchants “Loss of Business” forms that serve as a starting point for discussions between film producers and companies regarding compensation.

A spokesperson said the city is continually looking to improve operations and would hope to find a mutually beneficial resolution to dissatisfaction over the presence of movie shoots.

But neither Hemingway’s Books owner Dave Kyle nor Cobblestone Kitchenware’s Waltraud Neufeld had heard about the forms until this month.

Kyle said that in 16 years of being downtown, only one crew offered to compensate him for lost business – and that took place a decade ago.

Only this month did he learn about the existence of loss-of-business forms.

“You really have to be a squeaky wheel,” he said.

Both Kyle and Neufeld have signed the petition.

Like Tillotson, Kyle said crews’ use, and sometimes over-use, of precious downtown parking spots has the biggest negative impact.

Neufeld, meanwhile, has seen her entrance blocked while extras were filmed walking on the sidewalk in front.

“Our customers are being turned away while filming,” said Neufeld.

But others say the movie shoots have a positive effect.

“We feel it’s been great for the neighbourhood,” said Lily Ellis, a co-owner of Spruce Collective and The Market by Spruce Collective, two frequently filmed locales. “It brings a lot of attention to small businesses.”

John Rollins, the location manager for Runaway Sleigh, the film currently being shot downtown, and other recent productions for the Hallmark Channel, said producers spend thousands at downtown businesses on food and other products. Rollins said many businesses have also been offered the opportunity to take part in filming, and pointed to a stack of loss-of-business forms on the top of his car during filming Friday.

According to the city, Abbotsford had seen 106 days of filming in 2016 as of last Friday, with 32 films receiving permits here.

Those crews, the city said, have created more than $380,000 in economic spinoffs, according to documents submitted after filming completes.

Mayor Henry Braun said it’s a problem if businesses are being negatively affected but don’t know how to get compensated for their losses.

“If our business are incurring loss because of filming, then I am concerned about it.”

He suggested the city could look at its permitting process to ensure businesses are made aware of processes to receive compensation

The Abbotsford Downtown Business Association did not respond by press deadline to a request for comment.