City of Powell River staff will look at developing policies and procedures that streamline film production in the city.
At the February 1 committee of the whole meeting, mayor Dave Formosa said in years past, the city tried to get films to Powell River and struck out. He said filmmaker Tony Papa and School District 47 have become established and students are leaving the community to go to Vancouver to learn filmmaking.
Formosa said the city, late last year, managed to land an independent feature film called Exile.
“The producers were great,” said Formosa. “They even allowed the name to remain Powell River. I can’t wait to see this movie. It features Adam Beach, a star from TV and film.
“They’ve come up and they have another request. They have another movie they are trying to bring here and time is of the essence. They want a letter.
“When you look deeper at what they are asking us to do, possibly in the future, I was a little concerned about the cost of closing streets and that sort of thing. I think it’s great because we chased films for years. This is good economic development and it’s cultural. We’re all about that.”
Committee chair councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said there are huge opportunities in the film industry and the North Island region, which encompasses the qathet region, is “just dominating.”
“Because of the BC film credits, the province is attracting a lot of heavy-hitter films, so economic development-wise, it’s really a no-brainer,” said Leishman.
“When we hosted the film in November, there were some things we had to do and our chief administrative officer had to jump through some hoops, along with some of our staff,” she added. “We really bent over backwards and accommodated the production. We actually even hosted some shooting in city hall on a weekend. It would be incumbent on us to ask staff to come back to us to create a bit of a policy and a bit of a process for permitting specific to the film industry.”
Leishman said when production companies are looking for locations, the easiest one to deal with, a lot of times, is the one that will win the race.
“This recent film, Exile, found we were very amendable, we helped them out, and it was not a big deal to get the film equipment and the actors here, so I think we are positioned really well,” added Leishman. “We are a 22-minute flight from Vancouver, so sending up the main talent is a no-brainer. A lot of times, they can also barge equipment.
“It would just be great to have us direct staff to come back at some point with a bit of a process, policy and permitting, because if we could have a section on our website that was specific film production, they click on there, fill in on the online portal what they need, and it’s kind of a one-stop shop.”
Leishman said there could also be an explanation of the municipal boundaries and the regional district areas, because she’s sure there will be confusion with film companies.
A film production company is doing a fictional film based around environmental issues and they want to film in a sustainable community, said Leishman. She added that they are looking for language in a letter of support that outlines the kinds of things the city has done.
Doubt sees potential
Councillor George Doubt said he looks at film production as a great industry as an economic development engine. He said there can be the attractants, but there are some simple things that can be organized ahead of time, such as where the production company can get 200 sandwiches a day that are good to eat, or where they can get 16 truck drivers.
“I like the idea of a local film commission included in that report,” said Doubt.
Leishman said the community actually did have a film commission many years ago. She said it is something she’s brought up at the regional district many times when discussing economic development.
“As a region, the three governments could band together and do a regional film commission,” said Leishman. “We have many filmmakers and people in the industry in Powell River. We have the talent and the know-how.
“Other than having the report comment on what a film commission could do for us, I think it would be regional and outside our municipal department.”
Formosa said what is being sought is an internal policy to get the city through the basics of liability, what it can and cannot provide, so if another production comes, there’s a policy in place.
Chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said what is required is something simple that provides clarity for staff.
“To get us started, some simple tweaks, with a little bit of a policy, would position us really well for subsequent productions,” said Brewer. “Really, a lot of it comes down to relationships. We’re well positioned with the three governments here and knowing who has jurisdiction over what. We can set up some simple points of contact for that at the city. It would make it a lot easier.”
The committee gave consent for staff to prepare a report.