The Regional District of Nanaimo won’t cut funding to a non-profit that facilitates movie and TV production on the central and north Island.
At a board meeting Tuesday, Dec. 5, Lauren Melanson, East Wellington-Pleasant Valley director, made a case about why the RDN should halt a $50,000 yearly contribution to Vancouver Island North Film Commission, or INFilm.
Dan Brady, Nanaimo Hospitality Association executive director, and Brandon Lepine, INFilm regional production services manager, made a presentation speaking against the motion and ultimately, a majority of the board voted to continue with the funding.
“The economic value is fairly obvious, but the disproportionate benefits favour certain parts of the RDN more than others,” Melanson said. “The delegation very kindly pointed out how many hotel rooms and offices and float planes are used. We have none of those in [her area]. I see very little economic benefit in my particular area from this grant.”
Further, she said it would be more appropriate if the money came from municipalities within the RDN. As funding is listed as a grant-in-aid, there are other organizations more in need, she said.
“There was just short of $70,000 of community grant funding given this year to various other organizations, 34 in total, who applied for almost $250,000 worth of grant money and it had to be whittled down to $70,000,” said Melanson. “Whereas INFilm is receiving $50,000 as one organization.”
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog argued against the motion, citing the number of people who have voiced support and the boost to the economy. He mentioned that the delegation indicated that INFilm contributes to a $120 return to communities for every $1 it receives.
“Even if their figures are inaccurate … if it’s generating only $50, the only place you get those kinds of returns normally is in a Ponzi scheme and the fact is this ain’t no Ponzi scheme,” Krog said. “So with respect, I think [rural area] voters are getting enormous benefit, the region is getting incredible benefit, it’s a non-profit organization.”
The commission’s work includes promoting the region as a filming destination. Speaking to the News Bulletin last month, Brady said the TV and film industry is a boon to the Nanaimo area.
He said in an e-mail that based on year-end reports between 2018 and 2022, room nights in the Nanaimo area specific to the motion picture industry were estimated at close to 61,200, or roughly 12,000 room nights a year. That included business from the Disney feature Descendants, the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, the TV series Resident Alien and Chesapeake Shores and the film Seagrass, but didn’t count multiple documentaries or commercials.
RDN board chairperson Vanessa Craig, Melanson and Cedar-South Wellington area director Jessica Stanley voted in favour of the motion.