A feature film called Death Pursuit will be filming in Ashcroft starting on May 24; one of many film and TV productions coming to the area over the next few months. Another film coming to the Ashcroft/Cache Creek area is The Ringmen, which will start filming in mid-August, and the production company has said it hopes to film another project in the region this year.
It’s a scenario that has Victoria Weller, commissioner of the Thompson-Nicola Film Commission (TNFC), excited: not just about the productions and their economic benefits to the region, but also because of the many opportunities for locals to become involved with the film industry in a wide variety of positions.
“We’re finding that due to COVID-19 there’s been a large uptick in Canadian and B.C. projects, mostly because of the expansion of product that’s needed due to COVID and the expansion of channels,” she says. “There’s a broader market for films that are family friendly, and also some that are intriguing but not necessarily super-violent.”
The increase in homegrown filming in the region has resulted in a demand for more local crew members, as opposed to U.S. productions that spend a lot of time in Vancouver.
“When we say ‘local’ crew we mean that wherever you are, you work as a local,” explains Weller. “Some people will work and stay where they live, or live in trailers — which means you’re local everywhere — or live with family or friends and be local wherever that is, whether it’s in Kamloops or Clearwater or Ashcroft.”
Breaking into the film industry is not as difficult as some people might think. Weller says that many people already have transferable skills that production companies can use, such as First Aid or Foodsafe training.
“They’re always looking for people for craft services [catering] or who can be on set for special effects or stunts. If you’re a carpenter or an electrician, that can be transferable. They’re entry level positions, but if something is being built for the film industry it’s meant to look good, not to last.”
A traffic control ticket is also a transferable skill: production assistants often have to wrangle people, guard gates, or direct traffic. Weller says that drivers are also important.
“Look at the credits of any production. They depend on lots of drivers with different licences, and they’re always in demand and very valuable to the film industry.
“The industry draws on people who do catering and have food preparation experience, as well as people who’ve studied make-up or are hairstylists. If you have 100 background performers who need their hair done a certain way, you need a lot of people who know how to do that. They need seamstresses, people who know how to dye fabrics, and sometimes they need help with landscaping or greens preparation. Things like that are always helpful to know.”
Weller says that anyone with behind-the-scenes talents that might be valuable to the film industry should register with the TNFC’s crew database.
“Send a resume and contact info to email@example.com, and tell us what experience you have. Have you done bridal shows? Theatre? If so, we want to know that. Anything pertaining to the arts is really helpful.”
Even if you don’t have any experience, but just want to work in films, Weller says the film commission wants to hear from you.
“We like to keep people on file who have no experience but who want to learn. Once you get experience you’ll go on our crew database, but both sets [of names] get sent out to production companies, because you never know what they’re looking for. It’s as big as the imagination.”
She adds that people can decide when, and for how long, they want to work on a film. “Maybe you can take time off work, or take your holidays. You can say ‘I can work for five days but not two weeks,’ and that can be enough.”
Another interesting way to get involved with the film industry is as a location scout. Weller says scouts need to have a basic knowledge of the film industry so they know what the parameters are; a good knowledge of the region; a driver’s licence and their own vehicle; and some photography skills.
“Scouts are something we’re looking for as well, and we need them soon. The film commission is willing to train you about formatting and how to submit. It’s a job or skill that once you have, we’ll be calling on you to help with that throughout the year.” She adds that working as a scout is something that isn’t full-time, but comes in waves. “It’s a hit-and-miss scenario.”
For those who want to learn more, there are motion picture film orientation and safety courses available online, some of which are free and only take a couple of hours. The motion picture industry orientation course (https://bit.ly/3hHLmwG) is a one-day course, where participants learn the terminology, etiquette, and job descriptions of the film industry.
“It means that if you get called, you know what you’re doing,” says Weller. “It’s like looking behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz to see who’s operating everything.”
It’s not just behind the scenes where production companies are looking for locals; there’s also an increase in production needs in front of the camera. Weller says that anyone interested in working as background talent (extras) should register.
“In the region we have an extras casting company called Kammywood [https://bit.ly/3uXX1LH, or email firstname.lastname@example.org], and we also have a talent agency for acting, Askem [https://askemtalent.com/]. You’re sent out to audition, and there are other opportunities to grow and get employment as well.”
Weller says that people who want to work in the film industry have to be serious. Having some sort of training can help, and the film commission can help train you if you have transferable skills.
“What we find is that it’s a chicken or egg situation: they want local crew before they decide if they can afford to film here, but people wait until we have productions, and the companies fall away because we don’t have crew. We want to step up training and say we have people with transferable skills. We’re willing to invest in their future, but we have to know who they are.”
Weller says that with the film commission busier than it has been in years, they want to be ready when companies ask for crew lists.
“Time is of the essence. Get your resume in now; don’t wait.”