The creator of a local movie about the legend of Crawford Road has been cited by federal officials for allegedly taking or filming a motion picture on federal land without a permit.
The co-producer, Gordon Price, is fighting the charge in court. He was charged with the offense in January, several months after the film’s October premiere, according to court documents.
According to the Code of Federal Regulations, commercial filming, still photography and audio recording requires a permit.
When Crawford Road was released in October, Price sold discs for $20.
The fictional film tells the story of the legacy of Crawford, a rural 3.6-mile stretch of road that leads from York County to Newport News. The road is winding, narrow and has been the subject of a string of criminal investigations in recent decades.
The film also focused on tales from Yorktown and the unsolved Colonial Parkway murders in the 1980s.
Crawford Road’s producers told WYDaily details throughout the film were influenced by a WYDaily story published in March 2018 about the grim legacy of Crawford Road.
RELATED STORY: Behind the grim legacy of Crawford Road
Price said he could face up to a $5,000 fine. A WYDaily search of possible penalties for the offense was unsuccessful.
On Wednesday, Price’s attorney, Patrick John Curran Jr., appeared in court and filed a motion to dismiss the citation, saying the requirement for a permit is unconstitutional as it applies to Price because it “violates the First Amendment.”
Price and his co-producer James Person shot some scenes in about four locations within the Yorktown Battlefield area, court documents state.
Federal officers came to a music store owned by Price in Yorktown in December to discuss the alleged violation, according to the motion for dismissal.
“In December 2018, two officers of the U.S. Park Service came to Price’s music store and issued a citation for failure to obtain a commercial filming permit pursuant to 36 C.F.R. § 5.5(a),” the document reads. “Price asked the officers why his film was treated differently from numerous videos of paranormal activity from the same locations that appear on YouTube or the news interview he gave that appeared on WTKR, and was told the other activities were covered by the First Amendment, and the distinction turned on the commercial nature of his film.”
After that, Price re-edited the film and put distribution and showings on hold. He appeared in court in June to either plead guilty or no contest to the violation, but was advised to seek counsel from and attorney.
While commercial filming requires a permit, visitors to National Park Service areas do not require a permit for filming or still photography unless it’s defined as commercial filming.
Visitor photography using a model, set or prop or in locations where members of the public are not allowed also requires a permit.
Permits for filming or taking photos on national lands can cost up to $750 per day, depending on the equipment used and number of people involved.
News organizations or the media are not required to obtain filming permits.
“… [A]ny distinction between who must obtain a permit or pay a fee based solely on the “commercial” nature of the proposed production is unconstitutional,” Price’s attorney wrote in the motion to dismiss. “As the Supreme Court has explained, ‘[t]hat books, newspapers, and magazines are published and sold for profit does not prevent them from being a form of expression whose liberty is safeguarded by the First Amendment.’”
Price is scheduled to appear again in federal court Aug. 13, but has requested a continuance.