It’s not the record-breaking year Kathleen Gilbert had hoped for, but Victoria’s film industry is still going strong.
According to Gilbert, commissioner of the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission, the region will likely host 10 to 12 visiting productions, and three to four local productions by the end of the year.
Last year, a record-breaking 25 films were shot in Victoria — 20 of which Gilbert describes as “fairly large” — pumping more than $18 million into the local economy. With a 45 per cent tax incentive and low Canadian dollar, Gilbert had high hopes 2016 would be another big year.
“It’s disappointing that we didn’t have the same year as last year, but we’ll see how we do the next year and whether last year was an anomaly or a trend,” said Gilbert, noting the region’s bread and butter is low budget features and television movies, which typically have budgets between $1.2 million and $7 million.
Part of the problem, noted, Gilbert, is that Vancouver’s film industry is hopping right now, making it more difficult to find crews based in Victoria.
If production companies have to bring their own crews, it cuts into their already low budget. The higher cost of hotels during the summer months can also turn companies away.
In order to be more cost effective, Gilbert said many companies shoot here in the fall, winter and spring. After a quiet summer, the fall and winter are already shaping up to be busy.
At the moment, five films have been confirmed to be filmed before January, with one — a Hallmark Channel television movie — starting this week at various locations throughout Victoria. After that, three feature films (two from Vancouver) are slated for the region, along with the shooting of a Netflix series near the end of the year.
So far, two television movies have been filmed this year, along with a few television commercials, including a popular Volvo commercial that featured the Fisgard Lighthouse at Ford Rodd Hill in Colwood.
In order to land more big productions, Gilbert said the region needs a warehouse-sized film studio with a parking lot big enough for a circus.
Partnered Films is in the process of making that happen. The Victoria-based company is in the midst of purchasing the former Thrifty Foods warehouse on Butler Crescent in Central Saanich to turn into a movie studio that’s slated to open in June 2017.
According to the company’s website, south Vancouver Island has been a growing mecca for filming over the years and the only thing holding it back from exponential growth is the lack of a full-scale professional studio.
With 96,000-square-feet of space, the company’s marketing director William Code said the studio will have all the amenities necessary to host three full productions, and will include a theatre-style screening room, boardrooms, art departments, wardrobe rooms, rental accommodation, rig parking, two sound stages and a 20,000 square-foot state-of-the-art FX stage.
Tenants for the space are already lined up, along with an anchor tenant. Many of the producers are from L.A. and are moving to Vancouver, said Code, but they’re having difficulty finding available space.
The cost of the project is pegged at around $35 million.
“Vancouver is saturated. Every time you see a show…all you see is the same scenery. We’re pretty much an untapped market over here,” said Code, noting anything from small scale productions to movies of the week and big film productions would use the studio.
“It’s something way beyond anything that we’ve ever had before. I think it’s a game changer.”
Some of the biggest projects in Victoria last year were the Hollywood production of the supernatural horror film, The Boy, The Gourmet Detective series and Just in Time for Christmas, starring Eloise Mumford, Michael Stahl-David, Christopher Lloyd and William Shatner.
Prior to last year, 2005 was the city’s biggest year with 12 productions.