Okanagan Film Commission makes case for increased funds

Commission head says about $8 million was spent on film production in the Okanagan in 2012

It’s the kind of spending that makes some taxpayers cringe, but Jon Summerland does bring a solid economic argument to his defence.

The head of the Okanagan Film Commission appeared last week at a Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen budget workshop in Penticton, where he asked directors to up their yearly contribution by $6,000 to $30,000, money he said will be multiplied many times over by film productions that he’ll attract to the area.

His presentation included photos of a group from France he took out on an aerial tour of the region earlier this year to scout for locations for a film called, The Young and Prodigious Spivet.

“This is where your money’s going: I got a helicopter to show these guys around. I was given four hours to show them the Okanagan, so I put them in a helicopter,” said Summerland, adding the group was also treated to lunch at a winery restaurant.

The movie, written and directed by French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet and due out in 2013, was eventually shot mainly in the Alberta Rockies, although the Okanagan was chosen to provide the location for a scene that required railroad tracks.

“But still it was a great investment,” Summerland said.

“It was high-rolling, but they’re telling their French director friends and they’re coming back. It was an investment.”

Even with outlays for helicopters and lunches, the commission still managed to pay for itself, according to Summerland’s numbers.

He said about $8 million was spent on film production in the region in 2012, while the commission itself had expenses of $201,500. With expenditures at animation studios in Kelowna thrown into the mix, the production total was $27.6 million.

“We’re growing. We need the continued support. I know your budgets are tight, but it would be great if we could get up to $30,000,” Summerland said.

The additional $6,000 would equal “a lot of scouting,” he added, “because at this point I’m spending more (in the region) than I get from the RDOS.”

Andrew Jakubeit, who represents the RDOS on the film commission’s board, said he would urge fellow directors to find the extra funds.

“Last year was by far a banner year. We had more productions in our area than ever before,” he said. “That all happens from a film commission being aggressive.”

Jakubeit said the region’s most valuable shoot last year was a film about the Stanley Cup that was created for the Hockey Hall of Fame and left behind about $1.2 million in Penticton and Summerland. Next on the list was a Bollywood movie shot in Osoyoos that was worth about $500,000 to the local economy.

That economic activity alone represents “a significant return” on the RDOS investment in the film commission, Jakubeit said.