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On Location: Heritage, Justice, and the Film Industry

On Location: Heritage, Justice, and the Film Industry

The use of historic places for on-location filming is a longstanding and vital practice in movie and television production, and one that is evolving with the proliferation of filming incentives throughout the US and internationally. Many sites and communities benefit financially by opening their doors and streetscapes to the film industry, which can create jobs and generate revenue through location fees as well as film-induced tourism (also known as screen tourism). However, the overall economic, environmental, physical, and social outcomes of these on-location filming arrangements are not always positive, consistent, or equitable. This studio analyzed policies and practices related to the use of historic buildings, streetscapes, cultural landscapes, and archaeological sites for on-location filming to understand the consequences for communities, for the places community members seek to preserve as heritage, and for the narratives those heritage places represent. Students studied sites and organizations around the world to examine the challenges of and approaches to filming at heritage locales, as well as government and industry policies that influence on-location filming. Alabama served as a focus case study, and students traveled to Montgomery and Selma to more deeply interrogate how heritage places significant to the Civil Rights movement have been utilized and represented in film and television, the equity issues involved, and how local organizations and authorities promote and regulate on-location filming.They concluded their semester-long study with recommendations for how to raise awareness of current issues and enhance affected stakeholders’ agency through local government, heritage networks, community-based organizations, academia, and the film industry.