‘Our goal is to make Lancaster a center for the film industry.’
That’s Jay Ingram of the Lancaster Film Commission in an article (no longer available) at Lancaster Online.
The 1985 Harrision Ford blockbuster Witness and the following media and tourist onslaught has irritated some in Lancaster.
Donald Kraybill relates in The Riddle of Amish Culture that the Amish even considered using the ‘ultimate bargaining chip’, with one bishop mentioning that the Amish ‘might have to move away if they were not left alone.’
In the end, they negotiated a four-point agreement with the PA Bureau of Motion Picture and TV Development, ostensibly to prevent being targeted as film subjects in future.
The Amish aren’t too keen on Hollywood, photography, or being used as a ‘tourist-luring tool’, as one Amishwoman put it.
Witness accelerated the transformation of Lancaster’s Amish Country into one of the country’s top tourist attractions.
Tourism is a bit of a double-edged sword.
Uncouth tourist behavior tends to annoy the Amish, but at the same time, tourists provide a solid market for Amish-produced goods.
Some scholars even point out that outside attention may serve to strengthen the group by reminding its members of the specialness of their community.
Witness brought an economic and social impact on the Lancaster Amish community, still felt today.
Would be interesting to hear how local Amish feel about Ingram’s intentions. Is the spirit of the Witness agreement being ignored?
One of the points of the agreement says that the state ‘will not promote any script that uses the Amish and/or its culture as subject matter.’
The current film, being shot right now in the county, is another big-city-meets-the-Amish tale, based on a popular author’s novel.