Film commission funding cuts in Victoria eat into marketing efforts

Coun. Loveday, Alto seek restoration of funding to 2016 levels, point to impact on local economy

The Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission, which works to attract productions such as the TV series Gracepoint, shown here filming in Oak Bay in 2014, is looking to have its funding from the City of Victoria restored to 2016 levels after a series of decreases. Victoria News file photo

The Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission is reaching out to the City of Victoria for an increase in funding, after seeing its annual grant drop by $25,000 in the past three years.

The City has offered grant and fee-for-service funding to the Film Commission for over 15 years, and up until 2004 provided $50,000 per year to help cover its annual $200,000 budget.

That funding dropped to $45,000 in 2005, was reduced to $35,000 in 2017 and fell further to $20,000 for 2018.

“The funding represents a huge part of our budget,” says film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert. “We’ve asked the City to please reconsider it, in light of the economic development and jobs we bring on a yearly basis, which has changed quite a lot.”

RELATED: City restores funding to film commission

She notes that in 2010 alone local productions added $20 million to the economy, with the average year’s injection between $12 million and $15 million per year from 22 to 28 visiting film productions.

“This is the most amazing time to invest in the film industry,” Gilbert says. “Vancouver is overcrowded and the industry is looking to expand outside the Lower Mainland. But, we’ve had to cut back on staff and things we had planned to do, mainly around marketing … or basically anything beyond our rent, insurance and wages.”

Coun. Jeremy Loveday calls the reduction in funding a “mistake” and has drafted a motion with Coun. Marianne Alto to add $25,000 to this year’s City contribution.

“The film industry brings in around $15 million every year and that brings families jobs,” Loveday says. “For that, $45,000 is a good investment.”

The motion, to be discussed at next Thursday’s (Aug. 2) committee of the whole meeting, calls for the money to come from the City’s corporate contingency fund.

RELATED: Disney production filming at Victoria’s Government House today

Also a challenge for the Film Commission is the work involved in requesting funding from 13 municipalities as well as the province.

“We have to do funding applications for all of those, and defend them all at meetings, and at the end of the year do a report,” Gilbert says. “It takes up a huge amount of our time and staffing.”

Loveday acknowledged the need for a change in that process.

“Hopefully in the future, we can create a different funding stream so that the amount from the City could be predictable, and less time could be spent on securing grants and more time could be spent on marketing,” he said.

The Film Commission received $25,000 from Saanich and $10,000 from Oak Bay for 2018.

Gilbert is hopeful the motion will be passed by Victoria councillors, but says if not, there are other options.

“The province has said they’ll increase our funding, but we don’t know by how much, or when, ” she says. “We’re not going to close our doors if the City doesn’t support us, but it really would stunt our growth.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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