The Thompson Nicola Film Commission experienced its highest level of production in 2020, despite COVID-19 putting a crimp in filming mid-season.
Film commissioner Victoria Weller said regional independent production companies saw a drop-off in demand for product during and after the COVID lockdown and many had to restructure, partly because of increasing costs in production, scouting and touring challenges, quarantine rules and COVID testing and the fact producers and directors had to self-drive themselves rather than being shuttled to sites.
However, the industry rebounded by the end of the year, with $6 million in spending, or $19.5 million in economic impact, she said. Of that total, about $500,000 injected into the economy came from reality TV shows like Highway Through Hell, Backroad Truckers, Mud Mountain Haulers, and Rust Valley Restorers.
“From an economic standpoint, 2020 was one of the Film Commission’s most successful years,” Weller told the TNRD board at its monthly meeting March 11. “They love our locations, they love our crews, they love coming up here. From word of mouth, we’re rocking.”
Locally, the TNFC scored a “major coup” with downtown Ashcroft being the location for a full episode of the Twilight Zone episode “A Small Town”. Other other filming included Unicorn Code in Lytton, and Stephen King’s The Stand was also filmed at the Ashcroft Indian Band and in Area “E”, with some crew staying in Cache Creek, while U.S. documentary Safe Passage tells the story about the Big Bar landslide and saving the salmon.
In a report to the board, Weller noted the unit manager of The Stand reported that approximately $1.15 million was spent in the region. This included about $50,000 on gravel, $40,500 in local restaurants, and more than $20,000 on trucking. Another $500,000 was spent on accommodations in the region over nine days, of which two were spent in Kamloops, with $125,000 spent on location fees. Kal Tire in Ashcroft probably made about $500 per day during filming in the village, she added, with about $200,000 spent on hiring local crew. The $1.15 million does not include discretionary spending by cast and crew such as alcohol and buying clothes, and touring the region on days off.
Ashcroft Mayor Barbara Roden thanked the film commission for arranging free screenings of the Twilight Zone and said the location manager from the film crew has offered to give Ashcroft the four-foot by seven-foot model of the village used in the show.
“Now they’re trying to find ways to get it up to us,” Roden said. “It’s going to be wired for lights and we can display it. That’s going to be exciting. We’re looking forward to getting that piece of the show.”
Weller noted a demand for media and more people at home watching TV resulted in low-budget non-union and union movie-of-the-weeks for streamers and networks flourishing. B.C. directors and actors also worked often during the surge in productions.
“On a positive note, the demand for TNRD-based actors increased and local crew landed full-time work,” she said.
She added the region has the potential to sustain levels of production seen in previous years because it typically attracts productions that film outdoors, not indoors. As a result, location requests continue to pour in across the region, she said, with at least two projects intending to film in the region in 2021.
An action-drama project called Death Pursuit will be filming in the Ashcroft and Cache Creek area primarily from May 9 through to June 10.
Those interested in working on the project are asked to send an updated resume with your name and the title of the crew position you would be interested in. If you are interested in more than one position, send in another, separate application with your resume attached. For each application, people should indicate their name and the position they are interested in, such as Mary Smith, production assistant or Mary Smith, grip.
Applicants must be legal to work in Canada; have their own transportation (vehicle/carpool); and work as a local hire. Application(s) and resumes should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Thompson-Nicola Film Commission will put all applications/resumes received in a Dropbox for the producer and production manager.