It was a very Hip way to kick off an awareness campaign.
With mock film crew workers filing out of a B.C. Transit bus and setting up a shoot in front of the legislature, serenaded by the opening strains of the Tragically Hip’s “Blow at High Dough” … “they shot a movie once, in my hometown …,” the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission announced a new initiative Wednesday called We Love Film Too!
The advertising and social media campaign is designed to promote the region as a friendly location for film, TV, commercial and other shoots. Other goals are to boost the number of properties in the commission’s online location database, and to grow the local film crew base by supporting new education opportunities.
The industry is certainly keeping Vancouver Island South busy, despite the absence of a studio or soundstage, a fact not lost on V.I. South film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert.
“Last year we broke our record once again. We had 25 visiting shows and brought $21 million into local economies,” she said. Gilbert listed off such productions as Van Helsing, Disney’s Descendants 2, Amazing Race Canada, Puppy Prep Academy, and four TV movies brought by Front Street Pictures among those filmed in the region.
Big productions scheduled for 2019, she added, include Martha’s Vineyard Mystery Series, and Disney’s Upside Down Magic. “We send out packages every week so we’re hoping that more shows will be here by the end of the year.”
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, an active proponent of exploring greater film opportunities in the region, reflected on the work done by the commission and other parties to investigate ways to grow the industry further here. Noting that the direct spend in B.C. is more than $3 billion from the film, TV and digital media industry, he reminded onlookers of what stands in the way of the Capital Region taking a bigger slice of that total.
“The key missing ingredient to tap into this amazing, creative economic development opportunity is a studio,” he said. Tours of studios on the Lower Mainland determined that they’ve been booked solid for years, he added.
“But why just one studio would be the question? The critical mass for studio numbers is about four to five. One studio is two soundstages and a production centre, so I’m hopeful we can get four to six studios within this next term.”
Besides the Lexi Development Group, which is early in negotiations with Camosun College to build a studio, soundstage and educational facilities near the Pacific Institute of Sport Excellence on Interurban Road, Haynes said he knows of three other qualified investor groups looking for studio locations on the Peninsula.
“The most exciting part of today, and I know it’s early, is how a lot of municipalities and a lot of investors are getting behind the idea of a film studio,” Gilbert said. “Because that’s really where we’re going to see Victoria take off. That is absolutely the missing piece.”
While recognizing that talk of a studio is “a little premature,” but she is nonetheless excited about the possibilities for the coming years, and that Camosun is planning to offer specialized training to enable local people to work in the industry here, not on the mainland.
As part of the We Love Film Too! campaign, a decal program will be rolled out this fall, identifying merchants as “film friendly” for production crews that are working here. For more information on the commission or the campaign, visit dev.filmvictoria.com.