PENTICTON - Film producers continue to find the Okanagan an attractive place to shoot major films - and investment in the industry is good business for the regional district, says Okanagan Film Commissioner Jon Summerland.
He made his annual presentation to the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen board of directors at the Feb. 5 regular board meeting.
Summerland was looking for $35,000 from the board, up $5,000 from last year. He made a strong case for the Okanagan Film Commission as an economic generator, as he brought the directors up to date on the major film productions that took place in the valley last year.
“The North Okanagan, for the last year and a half, has been the busiest part of the valley for feature films, and the Central Okanagan has had a lot of the animation - but that doesn’t mean that’s the way it’s always going to be,” Summerland told the board. He said location selection in the valley depended on the scripts, and what they required for scenery.
Jon Summerland spoke of several success stories in the film industry locally, including Atomic Cartoons, which he said has been looking for a new home in the town of Summerland. He said the company would be employing 180 workers and generating $8.9 million in economic activity by 2019.
Companies like Disney, Capture Lab, Enderby Entertainments, Imageworks, Legendary and Dreamworks are just a few of the entertainment companies active in the valley, Summerland said.
Summerland claimed the film commission had returned $17,582,000 on regional district funding of $180,000. Last year, the North Okanagan Regional District contributed $24,000, while the Central Okanagan Regional District provided a grant of $100,000, along with $10,000 of in-kind funding. The Regional District of Kootenay- Boundary put up $5,000.
“There was no multiplier on that, that is what the return was. So it’s like $97.68 for every dollar that was invested in the region. Again, it was up north and central, but it’s not always that way," he said.
Summerland used the example of Enderby, where a major film was recently produced, to provide the directors with an example of the economic activity generated by the film industry.
“For every piece of the film, from the writing of the script to finding the money, to filming, editing, to the screen, to the tourism and the toys, all of it has economic impact, somewhere in there. You’re going to get money to write the script, you’re going to get money to shoot the film,” Summerland said. The film commission’s role was to show the film companies where they could shoot the film and how much it would cost to film in the Okanagan.
“We give them the infrastructure and the locations, we break it down, they’ll go out, find the locations, come to town and shoot from every one of those locations. In the beginning, they may not have the money, but they will come to town, and that’s when I’ll spend the money, to ensure they get their money from investors.”
Summerland provided an example of economic spinoffs not immediately apparent, citing a recent Disney production in Enderby.
“Disney just did a big film in Enderby, a small town, middle of nowhere, but a huge film, George Clooney and a bunch of big movie stars. In that film is a lot of jetpacks.
"Tomorrowland is an area of Disneyland. I know for a fact they re-doing Tomorrowland right now. So there is a very good possibility that in there, there’s going to be jetpack rides through cliffs that look just like Enderby.
"That is something that is beyond the economic impact of what you can have when you drop the money you have when you’re filming here. Now the local tourism board can say, ‘We’re in Disneyland.”
He said it created a tourist attraction one could have for years and years.
Of all the production companies recently active in the Okanagan, Summerland said Top Gear left the biggest impression.
"They didn’t drop a lot of money while they were here, but in one day, their presence generated 38,000 hits on my Facebook page, compared to 6,000 hits for George Clooney and 9,000 hits for Anthony Hopkins,” Summerland said. He noted this was Top Gear’s first appearance in Canada, and according to the Guiness Book of World Records, the production was the biggest TV show in history. He said the Top Gear crew passed through Princeton, Osoyoos and Greenwood, commenting on local attractions and appearing in local business.
“They are going to be showing that everywhere, and those names will be said, over and over again, on TV,” said Summerland.
Summerland said a number of big studios were actively looking at sites in the South Okanagan including Disney, Paramount, Sony and Halmark. He said they were looking at locations from Princeton to Bridesville, and north to Vernon and Lumby.
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