Byron Bay in northern New South Wales is defying conventional wisdom that says film and TV productions should be welcomed with open arms for the money and exposure they bring.
- The Byron Shire Mayor says councils should have a greater say over what gets filmed in their area
- He is asking his council to oppose the production of a reality TV series about influencers
- A petition calling on business owners to boycott the production has attracted thousands of signatures
The Byron Shire Mayor is asking his council to oppose the production of Byron Baes, a reality TV series about “influencers” living in the seaside town.
A petition calling on business owners to refuse the use of their premises as a location has attracted thousands of signatures.
Netflix declined to be interviewed, but in a press release it said the show would be a “docu-soap following a feed of hot Instagrammers living their best lives, being their best selves, creating the best drama content, #nofilter guaranteed”.
A ‘Truman Show’ portrayal
Mayor Simon Richardson said the show was “offensive” to the community.
“We’ve almost got a Truman Show-type portrayal of who we are where everything is quite idyllic and superficial, where out the back it’s an empty parking lot,” Cr Richardson said.
“We’ve got a community that is in real stress, we’ve got a community that has real life issues dealing with housing, work, affordability.
“While we are here trying to deal with this as best we can, to have this pamphlet of an idea of who we are without any input by us.
Cr Richardson called on the producers to make the series in another town that would welcome the exposure or, if they were determined to stay in Byron, to engage with the people and the stories in the town in a more meaningful way.
He said the council’s hands were tied, however, when it came to stopping the production from happening.
He said NSW filming protocols required councils to facilitate filming in their areas unless there were exceptional circumstances, such as traffic management or crowd control issues.
Byron Bay International Film Festival director J’aimee Skippon-Volke said while the production could offer some work opportunities for people in the local film industry that drawcard was unlikely to get it over the line for most people in the community.
“I think the very best thing that can come out of this production is the community coming together and really standing up for what they believe in and people having that reaffirmed to them about what Byron stands for,” she said.
‘Byron deserves better’
Cafe owner Ben Gordon was one among a list of businesses – including fashion behemoth Spell and boutique hotel Rae’s – that said no to Netflix when location scouts came knocking.
Mr Gordon said Netflix did not offer a location fee, just the chance of greater exposure and marketing opportunities.
“All the business owners need to realise is it’s not good for your business,” he said.
“They will tout that it’s going to be seen by millions of people and that it’s free marketing but it’s not good marketing and you don’t want to be involved with that.”
Mr Gordon said, although he benefited from people posting shots of his cafe on social media, the Netflix production “crossed the line”.
“This is a show that is targeted to 790 million Netflix subscribers in America about people who aren’t actually from Byron,” he said.
“It’s really low and Byron deserves better.”
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