The provincial government reaffirmed its commitment to the TV and motion picture industry in the province, handing out $275,000 to help regional film commissions draw productions to their areas.
Jon Summerland, director of the Okanagan Film Commission, explained that this funding is not on top of what the commission usually receives. Rather, he said, it’s just their regular operating budget, though it is coming from a different pot.
“We are not getting more money, we are just getting it from a different kitty,” he said. “It’s the same amount we always get, in fact it is a little bit less this year.”
But despite the funding being lower than usual, Summerland said the film industry in the valley is having its best year ever.
Right now, he said, there is a movie, No Tell Motel, shooting in the North Okanagan and another, Flicka 3, getting ready to start filming in September in the Central Okanagan. And there are more on the way, Summerland added.
“We have three films in the South Okanagan shooting in the late fall and winter, but I am not allowed to discuss them yet,” Summerland said. “They are in the lower budget range, but still over a million bucks for each project.”
“B.C.’s film industry is the third largest in North America and provides hundreds of jobs in the region. It’s a vital part of our economy,” said Boundary Okanagan MLA John Slater.
When the producers of the movie Gunless were scouting for the ideal setting for their dusty, old-west-style border town, they found the vistas they needed in the South Okanagan. And when the producers of Flicka 3 went looking for grassy rolling hills and pastures for their star horse to roam around in, they settled on the Okanagan as the ideal place to film their movie.
But selling film and TV producers — who spent more than $1 billion in B.C. last year — on the Okanagan takes money. The Okanagan was in the top tier of the grant allocations, receiving $30,000, as did the Kootenays, Northern B.C. and the Thompson Nicola region. The only area to get a larger share was Greater Victoria, which received $40,000.
Two animation companies are also setting up in the Okanagan. Bardel Animation Studios, which will be doing service work for companies out of Los Angeles, is planning to hire upwards of 80 people in the beginning, and are expecting to expand rapidly.
“They are talking into the hundreds in the next three years,” said Summerland. “Then we have Lizard Brain Animation, which has hired 25 people doing animation of a series called Badly Drawn Roy, out of the United Kingdom.”