As Front Street Productions (?????)wraps up shooting, the film industry in Victoria is hampered by the lack of local crew for future productions. Black Press file photo

Movie magic missing: Dearth of crew, facilities hamper local film industry

Greater Victoria needs game changer to rekindle industry on Island

Tim Collins/Victoria News

Front Street Pictures, which is based in Vancouver, is just finishing up filming in Victoria for the summer, and although some other companies have expressed interest in coming to the garden city to film, nothing has been finalized for this summer.

“Pup Stars may be coming back here in late August or early September (Pup Stars 2 filmed in Victoria in 2016), but it’s not a lock as yet, and in this business, anything can happen,” said Kathleen Gilbert, Victoria film commissioner with the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission. She is touring a few people around at present, but said she doesn’t have any confirmations on new projects.

The strength of the film industry elsewhere in B.C., notably Vancouver, has had a detrimental effect on Victoria’s industry, she said, as qualified crew are drawn away from the city by work on the mainland. Without local crew availability, productions are required to bring in crews and pay for their accommodations in Victoria.

“That can get expensive, as we’re a tourist destination and hotels can get rack rate for their rooms during the summer. We’ve had at least one company pull away for exactly that reason; it’s too expensive without a local crew,” said Gilbert.

The situation is really a bit of a “chicken and egg” conundrum, according to production designer, Eric Norlin, a film professional with a host of credits to his name. Although he purchased a home in Victoria in the hopes of working in the industry here, he is currently working in Vancouver, because of the lack work available on the Island.

“Without crew, the productions won’t come and without productions, the crew has to look elsewhere for work,” he said.

It’s a sentiment mirrored by Victoria production designer, Michael Goodwin, who said the other problem facing the film industry in Victoria is the lack of a dedicated sound stage/production facility in the city.

“If we had a proper facility, we could do much better here, but someone has to take the initiative to get it going. Perhaps it’s something the provincial government should be looking at,” he said.

Gilbert agreed there is a need for proper facilities in the city, but came back to the chicken-and-egg nature of the predicament.

“Without a sound stage we don’t get a large number of productions, and without a large number of productions, investors are careful about investing in the facility,” she observed.

Still, Creative B.C. feels the future of Victoria’s film industry is bright.

In an emailed statement, they wrote, “This industry is all about collaboration; from locations, to seasonal cycles and skills. In Victoria, the city is enjoying a significant increase in tourism, accommodation booking and events over the summer.”

Once the summer is over, the organization expects production activity to once again become much busier.

It’s a prediction that Norlin and Goodwin hope is accurate, for everyone’s sake.

editor@vicnews.com

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