The recent rally of thousands of B.C. film workers has people wondering whether the importance of our film industry is being recognized by the powers that be. The film industry in B.C. provides around 85, 000 jobs every year. TV shows, documentaries, feature films, commercials and independent films all contribute to this employment figure; however, within the film sector, the number of people out of work has reached an all time high.
Why is this? Well, it is largely because productions are being shot in other provinces where tax incentives are more attractive and where companies can make back better labour costs on the millions they spend.
How can B.C. compete with that? Understandably, the filming community is trying to draw more business to the West Coast and get the thousands of unemployed back to work in the industry that they love.
And it’s not just the tax benefits that are important, but the community benefits as well. The film industry is and has been a valuable contributor to the B.C. economy for decades, spending billions of dollars each year.
Many communities like First Nations are heavily entwined in the giant web of Canadian film production. A local filmmaker, who has asked not to be named, and has designed costumes on several Native film projects explains, “on every single level of film there are First Nations people, from production assistants to producers and directors…it affects First Nations the way it effects everyone else. We’re all in it together” she says.
And of course, let’s not forget location, location, location. First Nations are rich in wildlife and culture; often embedded in natural landscapes like Squamish, these communities attract adventure filmmakers who are drawn to opportunities for filming outdoor sports.
Brenda Chambers is a founding instructor with the Aboriginal Film and Television Production program at Capilano College, and an active member of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation. As a film producer and business owner in Vancouver, she has seen dramatic change over the 17 years that she has lived here.
Programs like the one Chambers founded are creating people qualified for the industry; however, she finds that there is a shortage of jobs and support at the other end.
“Communities are becoming culturally stronger and young people are more attracted to telling their stories through filmmaking. It’s just unfortunate that there isn’t that support politically. B.C. is a fantastic, beautiful landscape and with such talent here, it’s a real shame,” she says.
Chambers hopes to remain in Vancouver, and to continue producing, no matter what the future of film has in store.
She has played a large role in shaping the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network into what it is today, and is currently developing a television series on the empowerment of indigenous women.
British Columbia used to be the third largest hub for film and TV production in North America, and now there are only six TV shows in production here. It seems the beauty of our province and the thousands of skilled film professionals here isn’t enough to bring back film business. The film industry in Ontario is booming. Is B.C. being left out in the cold?