Chesterton Tribune



Scenes for movie about local pastor could be filmed at township library

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The Westchester Public Library Board discussed whether it would allow filming for a movie at WPL at its meeting Thursday.

Library Director Lisa Stamm told the Board she received communication July 8 from a production company that is planning to film at several locations in the Duneland area later this month for a movie about Road to Life Church pastor Scott Highberger. The movie will be based on his life and an autobiographical book he wrote, “Behind the Wire: A Prisoner’s Journey to the Pulpit.”

Stamm said the “heavily religious” nature of the film gave her pause, and she wasn’t a fan of short noticeŃthe company discussed filming as soon as Sunday, July 28. Nonetheless, Stamm said she wasn’t opposed to trying to collaborate with them if the Board approved.

The company reportedly says they can be in and out of WPL in an hour and that the Library doesn’t have to close for the filming. They just want footage of an actor studying at the Library for montage scenes.

Board Vice-president Nick Tilden said, “I think it would behoove us to investigate a little more about the nature of the film.” Member Kathy Cochran was adamant that the Board shouldn’t consider the film’s content on free speech grounds.

Her concerns were elsewhere. “Filming can be disruptive. There’s bright lights, there’s cameras, there’s a truck parked outside,” Cochran said. “It might be dangerous for small children if they get in the way.”

Board Treasurer Drew Rhed said the company didn’t give Stamm or the Board much time to decide. “It’s not like they started the process last week, but that’s when they notified you,” Rhed said to Stamm.

Tilden asked if the company had adequate liability insurance. Stamm said she hadn’t gotten an answer on that yet. Tilden also asked if the company is working with other local entities. Stamm said she was told “they’re also working with the Sheriff’s Department, the school, and the Jail, and everybody is working with them.”

Tilden said he didn’t like “multiple levels of hearsay” in that statement that could just be designed to make the Board more comfortable. Rhed said he’d like to know that the company has insurance and that WPL wouldn’t be the only local agency working with them.

Member Mike Livovich proposed the Board consider if it would be making an “extraordinary exception” for one group by allowing the filming. “It’s going to be used for religious purposes, possibly proselytizing. Will we be conceived as supporting that as a government entity and need to do that for everybody that comes along wanting to use the Library in that way?”, Livovich said.

Cochran responded to Livovich that the Board shouldn’t consider content. She cited that fact that WPL allows religious groups to meet in the Baugher Center, though she noted the requests aren’t one the same.

Member Abbe Trent said Stamm should go back to the company and suggest a weekday so there might be less disruption to patrons if the filming takes place. “They could just as easily come on a slow Tuesday,” Trent said. “You should feel free to set some parameters that make you more comfortable.”

Cochran added that Stamm should be present when the filming takes place, and she should establish a written agreement with the company so they won’t film patrons, and they’re committed to being out of the building at a certain time. “They need to show they will do things in a manageable, safe, and timely way, and you need to have the final say on when they enter and leave the building,” Cochran said.

The Board members agreed that if the production company has adequate insurance and works with Stamm to keep disruption to a minimum, they’ll allow the filming. Stamm said she would update them as new information comes to her.



Posted 7/16/2019




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