Growing Okanagan film industry gets boost

MLA Bill Barisoff and Ida Chong Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development were part of a special funding announcement Tuesday at the Penticton Memorial Arena where the 3D movie Stanley Cup Odyssey was being shot. - Mark Brett/Western News
MLA Bill Barisoff and Ida Chong Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development were part of a special funding announcement Tuesday at the Penticton Memorial Arena where the 3D movie Stanley Cup Odyssey was being shot.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

When Penticton Vees captain Troy Stecher decided to spend the summer training in the city he had no idea he would land a role in a film.

The character is not a far departure for Stecher, who is playing a hockey player in the short-feature production Stanley Cup Odyssey. The Network Entertainment 3-D movie is being captured at Memorial Arena and will be premiered at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in November.

“It’s pretty cool. Growing up as a kid you always want to win the Stanley Cup and doing something that will be part of the Hockey Hall of Fame is pretty special and something I will remember for a long, long time,” said Stecher, who also got to spend some time with the Stanley Cup when it made an appearance at Memorial Arena on Monday for the shoot.

While there was a lot of hype around the Stanley Cup taking a break from the Los Angeles Kings’ schedule to make an appearance at Memorial Arena on Monday, the provincial government made their own splash.

British Columbia’s creative on-screen entertainment industry, including filmmakers, TV producers and digital technology companies will benefit from more than $2.2 million of government funding. Ida Chong, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, said at the announcement $30,000 of the funding is for the Okanagan Film Commission.

As of late, the Okanagan has become a hotspot for the film industry. On the back of a Bollywood film in Oliver/Osoyoos, a film called A Mother’s Nightmare was on location in West Kelowna and Stanley Cup Odyssey in Penticton. Okanagan Film Commissioner Jon Summerland said more is to follow.

“There is a Christmas movie in Kelowna right after this crew is done rolling then there is two more movies; a western and a modern day western. There is also a horror film to be shot top to bottom and I find out next Monday if we land a seventh film,” said Summerland. “If you look at all the films in the Okanagan, there hasn’t been seven. Up until last year we had three. We are continuing to grow.”

Summerland said the areas growing stack of resumes from film crew workers is helping sell the area as a place to go to make movies.

“We are becoming a film centre on our own, not to mention, animation is growing. We had Electronic Arts here last week looking for someone to farm out work to,” said Summerland. “We are selling incentive, infrastructure. We have built an industry here and now we can sell that as a tool rather than here is some photos of the Okanagan isn’t it is pretty? Want to shoot here?”

Summerland said for Stanley Cup Odyssey they had about 100 people working, rented Memorial arena for $25,000 and producers are leaving equipment stored in the Okanagan.

“For the most part they are just spending money and they are leaving the money behind. For Penticton we might want to look at getting animation here, it will bring money because income is usually higher, and they are bursting at the seams in Vancouver and need to expand to regions where they get better tax credit,” said Summerland, noting Okanagan College has an animation course. “We have lots of big name animation companies looking here, I can’t tell you the names, but they are the biggest.”

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