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New study to explore potential growth of Kootenay film industry

The study has received $35,000 in funding
On set of the Hallmark film, Love in Glacier National Park: A National Park Romance, filmed at Fernie Alpine Resort in November-December 2022. Photo: Submitted

Submitted by Kootenay Regional Film Commission

Work has begun on the new Kootenay Regional Film Sector Study after being awarded $35,000 in funding by the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior in July.

Last year, film-related production spending was $3.62 billion in British Columbia, but the majority of that money was spent outside of the Kootenays.

Nelson Civic Theatre Society and Kootenay Rockies Tourism Association are the partners behind the Kootenay Regional Film Commission, which seeks to understand and increase production volume in the Kootenays.

Now the KRFC welcomes further collaboration from Community Futures Central Kootenay (CFCK) to undertake the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior-funded study.

“Attracting film production to the Kootenays means a boost for local hospitality, transportation and tourism businesses, and the hiring of local talent, who often have to travel outside the region for work,” said John Wittmayer, Kootenay Regional Film commissioner. “This study will explore the challenges and opportunities of it all, and the possibility of turning vacant spaces into studio spaces.”

Jointly conducted by Wittmayer and Ron LeBlanc, Slocan Valley economic development co-ordinator, the study will investigate opportunities and challenges of attracting motion picture production; establishing local industry assets like film studio space and production offices; managing sector development work; devising a transferable film studio model with design and costs; and leveraging the study to support infrastructure funding requests to partners like the provincial REDIP program and Columbia Basin Trust.

“CFCK is involved in this project to support the regional film sector, and in doing so help diversify the local economy,” said LeBlanc. “Attracting even one small feature film can bring in significant production dollars, employ local talent, benefit the local economy, and create opportunities in our arts, culture and tech sectors.”

For instance, Wittmayer brought a Hallmark film to Fernie, in November 2022. The production spent $1,483,740, with a significant $932,956 spent on employing local labour (film crew, catering, accommodations, transport), injecting a huge boost into the local economy.

Determining the feasibility of establishing local industry assets such as film studio space, production offices and pre-production capability could considerably advance the local film sector’s competitiveness.

“The local crew has always demonstrated a desire for more film infrastructure,” says Kootenay Screen-Based Film Initiative program manager Lynn Trinh.

”This research will be valuable in identifying new opportunities to support local talent wanting to take their projects to the next level, while getting to stay in the Kootenays and grow their careers.”

Further partners and funders of the project include the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership and the Columbia Basin Trust.

The study is expected to be completed by Oct. 15.