Pandemic helps local film industry
Chelsea Powrie - Jan 21, 2021 - Biz Releases

The Okanagan Film Commission says the pandemic has provided a boon for the local film industry, and anticipates attracting even bigger films and stars to the region soon.

Jon Summerland, chair of the film commission, gave his yearly update to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board Thursday, explaining how the Okanagan became a hot spot for producers from Hollywood last year, specifically for Hallmark and Lifetime movies.

“One month into the pandemic we were already quarantining people in hotels and shooting Hallmark films,” Summerland said. “We were instrumental in creating COVID protocol with WorkSafe BC. They were on our sets every day.”

He said the OFC advertised in an L.A. industry magazine, promoting the benefits of coming north to shoot during the pandemic.

“Basically our wording was there’s a lot of fresh air out here … why not come stand six feet apart and shoot in the great wide open?”

The OFC served 104 location requests in the Okanagan in 2020, and 25 productions were filmed here. Summerland said documentary and commercial shoots were down, but the future is features.

“The locations are great,” Summerland said. “They love Summerland, they love Peachland, they love Kelowna.”

He said bigger production companies are increasingly reaching out and that he even spoke to Netflix recently.

“We’re on the radar. I got called three days ago and did a package for a film that is upwards of $180 million,” Summerland said.

“We are growing as a film community.”

The OFC is a non-profit funded entirely by regional districts around the Okanagan and neighbouring Kootenay-Boundary, working to attract film productions to the region.

The RDOS contributed $45,000 to the $255,224.44 pot in 2020, while the Regional District of North Okanagan contributed $43,000, and the Regional District of Central Okanagan contributed $130,000.

Summerland said he anticipates bigger and better productions coming to the region and encouraged local municipalities to cement what kind of fees they charge for film crews using public spaces, the way a crew turned downtown Summerland into Christmas in July 2020, because larger-scale films are on the horizon.

“Those exploding cars and those fake snows, they’re coming.”

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