Like all other industries, it seems, the filmmaking business has had a tumultuous last 12 months or so, especially here on Vancouver Island.
With mandatory quarantining for anyone coming over the border and travel of any distance, not to mention gatherings of any size discouraged by all levels of government, it hasn’t been a great time for an industry that was already booming – and still growing – in our region.
But according to Joan Miller, commissioner for the Vancouver Island North Regional Film Commission (InFilm), there’s room for optimism.
“We went from feast to famine due to COVID,” Miller says, “but hopefully we’re ramping back up to feast again.”
Miller was providing an update on InFilm’s plans going forward at Campbell River city council’s most recent meeting.
The city has a large economic stake in how filmmaking is doing in the region, after all.
For example, InFilm is currently still under a non-disclosure agreement with Apple TV surrounding its production of See – starring Jason Momoa – back in late 2018 and early 2019. However, Miller says she did have permission to share a few statistics council might be interested in hearing.
“They had 19,000 room nights, paid $3.5 million to local vendors, $3.2 million in local payroll – which for us really showed the work that we’re doing growing and training our crew and providing opportunities for local people to get jobs when these productions come to town,” Miller says.
And there were more of those productions looking at coming to town before the whole world was thrown into flux by a global pandemic.
“In 2020 we had some really wonderful productions that were geared up and looking at this region, but as of March 13, everything came to a halt,” Miller says.
But instead of lamenting what might have been, Miller and her team “pivoted and got working on things that we could control,” with a specific focus on training programs and keeping lines of communication open with production companies to be able to land them back here once they’re ready to start shooting.
A big part of Miller’s optimism comes not only from the fact that the region – pre-pandemic – was showing growth in interest levels from production companies and she expects that to rebound once things get back to normal, but also from the number of people in the region who are taking advantage new training programs through North Island College (NIC).
“We developed these four pilot projects back in 2018, and we delivered eight cohorts of them in-person. They were very successful and people (who have taken them) have gone on and are working in the industry.
“Some of them are moving up into key roles.”
But when those training opportunities went dormant as in-class learning was cancelled, Miller sat down with the folks at NIC “to look into the opportunities to take some of that training and pivot it online.”
After being successful in a few grant proposals, Miller says, “we’ve now been heads-down for the last four or five months building programs that pivot to online and we now have three production assistant programs with 150 people doing that from our region. We’re really ramping up our local talent.”
You can find out more about InFilm’s work online at www.infilm.ca and see why Vancouver Island is quickly becoming a go-to destination for film crews looking for unique and beautiful locations.
“We’re really getting to the next level,” Miller says.