A FINAL compensation figure to be paid to Lyme Regis by the film company currently working on ‘Ammonite’ has not yet been decided.
Fossil Film Ltd, the production company for ‘Ammonite’ – based on the life of famed fossil hunter Mary Anning and starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan – has been working in the town for several weeks in preparation for filming, which began on March 11.
The Bell Cliff area of the town centre has been transformed into an 1840s set and scenes have also been shot at the historic Cobb harbour this week. Coombe Street is expected to be closed for filming towards the end of the month.
The company has also taken over Cobb Gate car park, the Shambles in Broad Street and a section of Holmbush car park, and has been managing stop/go traffic control through the town centre causing some delays.
Speaking at Wednesday night’s meeting, Councillor Jeff Scowen asked for an update on negotiations the town clerk had been holding with Fossil Films Ltd. to agree a compensation fee to be paid to the town for the disruption.
Councillor Scowen commented: “They are probably half way through filming and we have not yet got a figure. That’s really not the way to do negotiations and I think we’re looking to give any money we get to good causes in Lyme – although we haven’t decided – so I’m a little disappointed with the way this has been handled.
“As things stand now, we don’t have a figure, the negotiations haven’t been completed and really we’ll have to take what we’re given. Can we learn from this in future and do a more professional job at negotiating?”
The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Michaela Ellis, said: “I think we have to remember that the film company did come to us really, really late and the town clerk has been working really hard to get these negotiations sorted. Getting meetings with them has been difficult.”
Town clerk John Wright commented: “There is an offer and there has been a series of offers from the film company, and I’m working on the council’s behalf to improve those offers. It would be remiss of me to say what that sum is.
“The negotiations have not been concluded but there is a significantly improved offer from the film company on the table.”
Councillor Stan Williams said: “There’s no doubt it has caused a lot of disruption. Even today people were trying to park in Cobb Gate car park but they can’t because it’s closed. It took me quarter of an hour one day to get down the main street in my car.”
‘Not the way to do business’
Referring to ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, which was filmed in Lyme Regis in the 1980s when the town received £8,000 in compensation – the equivalent of £34,400 today – Councillor Williams continued: “It’s become difficult and we should have some reasonable compensation, certainly the equivalent of what we got when the last film was made in Lyme Regis.
“I just think this is not the way to do business, you don’t wait until afterwards to decide on a price. It’s disappointing.”
Councillor Scowen asked whether the figure would be made public when it was finalised.
Mr Wright replied: “This council is entering an agreement with the film company. Lots of organisations around the town are entering agreements with the film company, they are not making those figures public. Clearly councillors will get told what the figure is.”
He added that councillors had been “kept in the loop” regarding negotiations and he was working towards the figure they had set for him.
Councillor Scowen commented: “That doesn’t answer my questions, I’m asking whether that figure will be made public or are we signing a confidentiality clause?
“This is completely different – this is public money that hopefully is coming in. It’s not a private individual that is getting money for their shop being used in the film.”
Mr Wright said that the figure would be made available to councillors and if they wanted to make this information public that was “absolutely fine”, but he would not be making a public announcement himself.
There has already been some discussion on how any compensation the town receives should be spent, with some saying it should be donated to a charity such as the Rotary Club of Lyme Regis, and others saying it should go towards the Mary Anning Rocks campaign, which is raising funds to erect a statue of the fossil hunter in Lyme Regis.