Monday, October 10, 2011

Guam Film Office Bill Stirs Up Controversy


* Legislation withdrawn and reintroduced

Senator Tina Muña-Barnes introduced Bill 324 to establish a Guam Film Office for promoting Guam as a film location and to regulate foreign companies wishing to film on Guam. Variety file photo

A DELUGE of disapproving comments against the Guam Film Office bill went viral over the weekend, because of provisions which some members of the industry say could jeopardize the local film industry on Guam.

This has prompted the bill’s author to withdraw the legislation and reintroduce it with strengthened language.

Sponsored by Senator Tina Muña-Barnes, Bill 324 was introduced last Monday and, if enacted into law, will establish a Guam Film Office to promote Guam as a film location and regulate foreign companies wishing to film on Guam.

But, according to a website dedicated to “stopping” Bill 324,, the bill “takes away” local videographers and photographers’ “right to work.”

The website/blog was put together by a “Filipino-Chamorro videographer and photographer.”

“I consider myself an Independent, but I seem to lean more Democratic as of late,” the website creator wrote.

Item 1 on the website states Bill 324 requires locals to obtain permits to photograph, film or draw at publicly owned areas. Then, highlighted in red, it states, “Locals are not exempt according to Item E on page 8 of Bill 324.”

That particular item reads, “Local Production Companies. For the purposes of this act, companies licensed by the Department of Revenue and Taxation, to do business on Guam, are exempt from paying permit fees” if the company is locally incorporated – with Guam residents as owners – and maintains its headquarters on Guam.

The website claims that although the local production company will not have to pay fees, it will still be required to obtain a permit to do business on Guam.


But according to Barnes’ office, the confusion lies in the previous page, under item “50407 Exemptions,” which reads, “The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to or affect.”

Therefore, under the bill, local production companies are, in fact, exempt from the Guam Film Office Chapter.

“I understand that some very well-meaning people interpret the law differently and that is why I have withdrawn Bill 324 and introduced a bill that makes the ‘local production companies exemption’ language even stronger,” said Barnes.

Under the new bill, which has been transmitted to the clerk of the Legislature and is awaiting approval, a new provision will be added immediately after the “exemptions” section of the bill, titled “50408. Local Production Companies Exempt,” further strengthening the language of the bill.

“Their issue is they don’t want to be affected by the statute. Under that provision, they won’t be. But I want to make clear that they originally weren’t. It’s not like we’re changing it because they were, they were never affected. Now we’re just making it clearer and stronger,” stated an employee from Barnes’ office, adding Saipan and Hawaii have their own respective film offices to regulate filming.

Barnes is inviting film industry stakeholders to meet with her to discuss the bill further. She also said she had initially introduced the idea as draft legislation in June, seeking community members’ input.


The concept, Barnes said, was brought to her attention by David Duenas of the Guam International Media Coordinators Association.

Barnes additionally stated: “Without a Guam Film Office, we can’t protect the Guam brand as well as we should or regulate the way international film companies use our island. That is why I will continue to work with the public to get this done the right way.”

Earlier this month, local filmmakers Don and Kel Muna organized the first ever Guam International Film Festival.

The event was a success and was held at the Micronesia Mall Stadium Theaters, featuring over 100 submissions from both local and international filmmakers.

According to media reports, GIFF drew thousands of people to the event.

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