If you build it, they will come
Vancouver Island is seen as a destination location for the film industry, but in order to grow the Island needs more purpose-built studio space, equipment rental offices and more experienced crew members.
Infrastructure is key to creating a more film-friendly economy on the Island, said Dian Cross Massey, President of The Crossing Studios, at the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s 2017 State of the Island Economic Summit.
During the Film Industry – Is Vancouver Island only “Alone” in Film and Television? Session Cross Massey said the needs of the film industry is very unique and productions have a specific requirement for buildings. Typical warehouses don’t have high enough ceiling, soundproofing and other requirements. She said Vancouver Island is typically chosen as a location destination because it doesn’t have the studio space to support productions. That’s why purpose-built studio spaces, such as the newly constructed Vancouver Island Film Studios in Parksville, are needed.
Steve Gordon, an award-winning TV commercial director and cameraman, said equipment rental services are also needed on Vancouver Island. If a camera, lighting or grip equipment fails there is currently no place to quickly replace that equipment by renting it. He said if the Island can get more equipment rental companies onboard the fewer equipment productions have to bring over from Vancouver, which saves them costs.
Communities need to understand the industry
While infrastructure is an important part of attracting the film industry to Vancouver Island, the attitudes of residents and businesses is also key.
Film friendly communities are important, said Kathleen Gilbert, South Vancouver Island Film Commissioner. People need to know what to expect when a film crew comes to their neighbourhoods. She said having meetings with politicians, businesses, residents and First Nations is important so they understand the impact on their communities and don’t get frustrated with the process. She said a positive attitude by community members is huge and can mean return visits by other productions.
Communities also have to decide if they want to be solely a destination location or a production centre. A destination location needs to have photographers identify and document the unique locations. A production centre needs studios, equipment rentals, experienced crews and to attract larger projects that involve Hollywood stars it also needs five-star hotels and good restaurants.
Vancouver Island Film Commission offices need support
Both the Vancouver Island North Film Commission and the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission need support said Gilbert.
She said both organizations have been struggling for years. Gilbert said the film commission offices are underfunded and as an officially certified film commission they are not allowed to charge fees for services. Even if they could, Gilbert said that would deter many film productions because typically around the world they get services for free.
The film offices work on developing relationships with producers and studios. Once they receive a script they scout locations, find hotels, crew, parking locations for equipment and help cut through red tape if necessary.
The two organizations have been trying to unify the filming permit process across all municipalities on Vancouver Island, but haven’t been successful as of yet. Gilbert said the office needs more help with the permit process to make it easier for productions to travel to destinations and film across the Island.