WINCHESTER — Winchester isn’t quite ready for its close-up.
The problem lies with the city’s film permitting process. Anyone who wants to shoot a movie, TV show, commercial or corporate presentation in Winchester must complete and submit a special event permit — the same form used for public festivals, fundraisers and concerts.
Justin Kerns, executive director of the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it can take a month-and-a-half for a special event permit to be approved, and that’s far too long for production studios that need a fast answer about potential shooting locations.
The Virginia Film Office in Richmond recommends a five-day turnaround on permit requests, he said.
Kerns has asked city officials to re-evaluate its film permitting process to make approvals faster and, hopefully, entice more productions to Winchester.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said on Thursday, adding that larger cities like those in Northern Virginia have dedicated staff to help expedite permit requests.
Film permits are required in populated urban areas like Winchester because productions often close roads and impede travel, Kerns said.
Permits are not necessary in some rural areas, including Frederick County, as long as filmmakers coordinate their efforts with local public safety officials.
According to information provided by IMDb, Winchester has served as a filming location for more than two dozen movies, TV shows and promotional videos, dating back to 1913. Two of the best-known productions were “Gods and Generals,” a major motion picture released in 2003, and “Santa Girl,” which was shot at Shenandoah University and released last month.
Kerns said Winchester’s historic architecture and close proximity to Washington, D.C., should make it very appealing to filmmakers.
To further boost Winchester’s profile, Kerns recently submitted updated photos to the Virginia Film Office to tout Old Town, Abram’s Delight and other locations as potential shooting locations.
“We’re more on the radar now of the Virginia Film Office,” he said.