Lights, camera, action….and cash

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Snubbed councillors want Oban to benefit from location fees when film crews come to town.

On Monday, Oban community councillors said they felt insulted and ignored after Argyll and Bute Council failed to tell them makers of the show Pennyworth, linked to wealthy Warner Bros, would be hiring out council-run Ganavan car park for their vehicles and trailers while shooting for series three on nearby Dunstaffnage estate-owned land recently.

This week’s community council meeting heard that to add to the insult, Argyll & Bute got the hire dates wrong and had closed part of the beachfront car park off to the public a weekend sooner than needed.

As well as taking over parking bays for people with disabilities, crew vehicles stayed overnight last weekend breaking Argyll and Bute Council’s own rules, Monday’s meeting was told.

‘I do feel it was less than courteous not to advise us of a prestigious film crew coming. I think we should have known. There should be some advantage to the town,’ said Councillor Elaine Robertson on Zoom.

From January 2020 to January 2021, the council received 91 film enquiries with 21 productions filmed during the year leading to a local production spend of £310, 000 – compared to an estimated local production spend of just over £1 million in 2019 before Covid.

Latest film shoots in Argyll included Top Gear at Oban Airport and Murder Island – a  six-part series where  contestants became detectives in a specially-curated crime thriller made on Gigha.

Crime drama Pennyworth is based around the adventures of Batman Bruce Wayne’s loyal and tireless butler – Alfred Pennyworth.

Community councillors said film crews were welcome with open arms in Oban but the community should get something out of it.

Community councillor and Ganavan snack van owner Dugie Graham said he also knew nothing about the weekend’s shoot and that information should have been sent to community leaders from Argyll and Bute so it could have been passed on to the people of Oban.

He also suggested a letter should now be sent to the film company making them aware of Oban’s funding issues after Covid, asking for some kind of donation to the town causes.

Frank Roberts who lives at Ganavan and is a community councillor said the first he knew of the car park being taken over was when film company Shoebucket Ltd pushed a flier through his letterbox.

He said the film crew’s behaviour was ‘exemplary’ and everything was well-managed but added the production must have cost thousands of pounds as they filled the car park with their ‘truly spectacular’ vehicles. He said he heard Argyll and Bute Council only got a ‘derisory’ sum for it.

‘Without the use of the car park they could not have done it at all,’ he said, adding he would like to see the hire fee received go directly to Oban Common Good Fund.

A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute council said: ‘This was primarily a private arrangement with a local landowner where the filming took place. The Council received a small fee for parking arrangements as is normal practice for any event including filming, events and festivals. We understand the cast and crew stayed at local hotels, contributing  to the local economy. The car park remained open to the public at all times with 59 spaces for public use and access to all public pathways.’