City of Grantville
‘Walking Dead’ OK’d to film in cemetery
by Celia Shortt
Stalwart Film Studio will still be able to film scenes for AMC television series “The Walking Dead” in Grantville City Cemetery, following Monday evening’s special meeting called by Councilmembers Selma Coty and Barham Lundy.
Councilmember Coty said she called the meeting because she had been receiving complaints from citizens about allowing the filming in the city cemetery.
In the called meeting, Grantville City Attorney Mark Mitchell advised the council they are obligated to honor the original agreement with Stalwart.
“Our attorney advised we are obligated to the previously issued permit and in danger of possible legal action if we renege and withdraw the permit,” said Grantville Mayor Jim Sells in email correspondence. “Ms. Coty insisted we are the council and we can do what we want.”
“Yes, I did say that,” responded Coty after the meeting. “Certainly, anyone should know that the city council is bound by local, state, and federal concerning any action. Should it violate those laws, there are consequences. There would have been consequences in this case, because, according to the attorney our ordinance (a local law) does not provide for voiding a permit, once approved. There would have been the risk of a suit, had the city reversed itself. Mr. Lundy stated he was willing to take that risk.”
Citizens concerned with and supportive of the filming were present at Monday’s meeting to share their take on the project.
According to Coty, the majority there were supporters of the mayor and not those who had loved ones interred at the cemetery. She said four citizens who were against the filming shared their concerns at the meeting, and three who were for it shared why.
“The overriding concerns were that it was disrespectful to their loved ones and what could happen afterward,” said Coty. “The possibility of tours was brought up. The question of people seeking mementoes was discussed. My question is how will the city explain that kind of desecration to a grieving child or spouse?”
All councilmembers were present at Monday night’s meeting. Councilmembers Johnny Cooks and Rochelle Jabaley rejected the motion to back out of the agreement with Stalwart, and Lundy and Coty voted for it. Grantville Mayor Jim Sells broke the tie and voted with Cooks and Jabaley.
“The permit will be honored,” said Sells. “Our business reputation is tarnished, but not shattered. We will work with the studio and verify the cemetery is treated with dignity for their two days’ use and returned in good order.”
At their regular meeting Oct. 14, the full Grantville City Council voted unanimously to allow Stalwart to film Grantville for two days. The filming locations include the cemetery and a home in the town.
In regards to the cemetery and the scenes being filmed in it, Stalwart agreed: “nothing disrespectful, no violence, no walker/zombies, no names of our deceased to show in film, no filming on weekend and everything as good or better when they leave.” The scene would include members of the cast walking out of the woods and through the cemetery to a fake headstone placed there by the studio. The cast then sees what they are looking for and leaves.
Stalwart will also pay the city for the use of its property. Mayor Sells has suggested that all of the studio funds received go to cemetery maintenance.
“The cemetery is maintained by the Grantville taxpayers and no one else,” he said. “There is no money in the budget for much needed maintenance. I have suggested we use 100 percent of the studio funds for cemetery maintenance.”
Coty believes using the money for cemetery maintenance is a good idea.
According to location manager for “The Walking Dead” series, Mike Riley, filming will take place toward the end of October and the first of November.