The bright future of the film industry in B.C.

The film industry in British Colombia is booming. With billions of dollars worth of productions and constant growth, the business has reached and broken records over the past three decades. Vancouver has become the natural focal point of this growing industry, as the largest city in B.C. Sometimes referred to as Hollywood North, the city has profited significantly, thanks to the rising interest filmmakers seem to have in producing films there.

However, this is not an industry that can exist without concerns. The film boom has brought a wave of wealth and jobs to Vancouver, but there has been a rising concern regarding how long this period of growth will last.

To address these concerns, a panel was organized and presented at the Olympic Oval by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, with the intent of looking at the local film industry, and at what the growth of the industry means for Richmond. On Nov. 9, four professionals with over 100 years of combined film experience between them gathered to take a look at the impact of film on B.C.

Four panelists sit down to discuss the future of the film indistry in B.C.

From Left to Right: panelists Kendrie Upton, Sandi Cooper, Kathy Gilroy and Peter Leitch sit, ready to answer questions and address concerns surrounding the local film industry. Photo credit: Daniel Nottingham.

About the speakers:

The panelists were Peter Leitch, Kathy Gilroy, Sandi Cooper, and Kendrie Upton, four industry experts with a little over a century in terms of shared experience.

Peter Leitch has over 30 years of experience with the film industry in B.C. As the President of North Shore Studios, as well as the chair of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of B.C. (MPPIA), he has represented the film industry at various levels of government and supports long-term progress for the industry in B.C.

Kathy Gilroy has been in the industry for more than 20 years, and her more recent work has seen her producing television shows in Richmond. As a producer on the series “Once Upon a Time” (which filmed for six seasons in Steveston), she has seen first-hand the positive effects the industry can have on small communities.

Sandi Cooper has worked in the world of film, television and marketing as a creative executive for over 25 years. Today, she works as the Film Commissioner of British Colombia. Her work on opening up new opportunities for collaboration in B.C. has contributed to the flourishing film industry present today.

Kendrie Upton’s experience in location management is all but unmatched. With over 30 years of experience, the current Executive Director of the B.C. Directors Guild is a film industry veteran. Her involvement with big-budget films, such as “Watchmen” in particular, makes her a unique asset to the panel.

The Event:

As guests file in, the question of permanence in the film industry hangs in the air. The four professionals all have positive outlooks on where film is going in the region.

“Sustainability is huge,” says Upton. “It’s at the top of the list when you have the good fortune to be as successful as we are right now.”

The longevity of an industry such as film comes largely from the variety of jobs it calls for. With depth of opportunity, an industry becomes more accessible to potential workers. The film industry in particular offers a wide, but also diverse, selection of jobs to those interested in joining up. “The diversity of opportunity in this industry is humongous,” says Upton.

This means that film is an industry with a naturally growing demand for jobs and Vancouver seems to be meeting these demands.

“Gone are the days where if you were working in the industry it meant you got a gig here or there. People who are in the industry are working,” Upton said. While freelance work is still common, specialists in makeup, driving and construction are in high demand, and the industry is showing no signs of letting up.

So with this in mind, what can Richmond do to aid in the growth of the film industry?

“We spend over $300,000 a day,” says Gilroy. “If we’re spending an hour of that … paying for travel time, it’s kind of like lighting money in the parking lot on fire.”

To condense the space between locations would open up what Gilroy calls a great opportunity for Richmond. Stage space, in particular, is an area worth investigating. “Everybody is always looking for stage space,” says Gilroy, “it’s almost like an insatiable appetite for that.” The expectation here is that specialty businesses (those tied to film, like dry cleaners, or prop stores) will start to appear as a result of newly-established stage spaces, adding to the economy of the industry.

Glasses of water for the panelists, as well as a popcorn-themed decoration.

Popcorn-themed displays and director’s chairs lend themselves to the optimistic mood and content of the event.

Such changes seem to bode well for the film industry, but also for the economy in general.

“It’s a great way to diversify the economy,” says Leitch. “We are one of the leading industries now in job creation in British Colombia.” According to Leitch, growth of the industry is as consistent as ever. “…especially with the consistency, even compared to places like New York, Los Angeles or Toronto, Vancouver has been a very steady place,” he says.

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