Vancouver Island residents and First Nations members will soon have more opportunity to get involved in local television and film productions when those productions come to the region.
Minister for Social Development and Social Innovation Michelle Stilwell, North Island College (NIC) board members, Joan Miller of the Vancouver Island North Film Commission and representatives from local First Nations, made the announcement Friday at the Campbell River campus of NIC.
The $488,000 pilot project consists of two separate specialized trades programs, offered in both Campbell River and Port Alberni, which will train carpentry and electrical journeypersons and apprentices to take on roles in set construction
Stilwell says 297 film and television productions took place in B.C. in 2015/16, “with direct spending of $2 billion. Our motion picture industry supports approximately 25,000 direct and indirect, quality jobs that make up the talented and highly experienced and knowledge-driven workforce that we have. With over 60 studio facilities and 2.5-million feet of stage space, B.C.’s motion picture industry can serve over 50 productions at once and accomodate all sizes and types of production.”
And because B.C. is so attractive to film and television producers, we need to ensure that when they come here, we have a trained workforce available for them to use on their projects, particulary here on Vancouver Island, which this announcement makes a reality, Miller says.
Vancouver and the rest of the Lower Mainland, Miller says, is seeing a huge boom in large-budget productions being filmed and produced in the area, but small and medium-sized budget productions are being squeezed out of that area. They still want to work here in B.C., but the fact that trained crew members had to be brought in from the Lower Mainland added to the cost of production, which was a hinderance for some, Miller says.
“The pilot program announced today is the first step toward building crew capacity here,” Miller says, so that Vancouver Island can be even more attractive to film productions.
The program has two intake streams. The first is a specialized trades program for anyone who wants to train to be in set construction and work in the industry, while the second is the First Nations production assistant program, which will give Aboriginal students additional opportunity to be a part of the filming boom.
Chris Roberts, representing the Wei Wai Kum First Nation and also serving as the economic development coordinator for Nanwakolas Council, calls the announcement “a big deal.”
“I’m really pleased to see a First Nation focus of the program being offered,” Roberts says. “We see these types of proposals to come to our territories to film, and there has been some employment provisions made to hire our people, but without any kind of preparedness to work on a production like that, without that training. “Well, let’s say we’re going to see a lot more positive outcomes, both as response from the industry side and from our First Nation communities about the meaningful roles that our people are able to play in these productions.”
The courses are expected to begin this coming September, with the intent being to have a cohort of new, trained crew members ready to start on film productions coming to the Island beginning next spring.