KAWARTHA LAKES –Have you ever thought the beauty of Kawartha Lakes would be the perfect backdrop for a movie? The City of Kawartha Lakes has set aside $40,000 to study the impact of a local film production office.
According to a recent report from Economic Development, this project is designed to investigate new innovative programs that encourage post-pandemic economic recovery.
“Film production is an industry within the cultural economy. It has shown that it can be a significant economic driver and touches upon all five goals of the Kawartha Lakes Economic Development Strategy: Adopt a City-wide focus, grow specific business sectors, encourage a positive community business culture, align and inspire city resources and attract and retain a new generation of great entrepreneurs and workforce,” the report stated.
The film and television industry supports a creative economy in Canada, employing people in every province, across a diversity of skill sets and trades according to the Motion Picture Association of Canada. In 2018/19, more than 180,900 people – from special effects technicians to makeup artists to sound editors, carpenters and more – worked in jobs supported by the industry, with the total volume of film and television production reaching a record $9.32 billion and generating a GDP of $12.8 billion for the Canadian economy.
And as there has been interest in bringing film production to the municipality, officials say a comprehensive study is required to create a film-friendly process that will demonstrate the economic benefits of film production.
According to Donna Goodwin, Arts & Culture Economic Development Officer for the City of Kawartha Lakes and project manager for the study, the configuration of Kawartha Lakes, with its many unique communities and beautiful natural spaces, offers a great backdrop for film and television productions.
“Our Arts and Heritage Trail has over 50 locations that are market-ready and open to the public. These and the other historic, cultural and natural amenities create a lot of options for location scouts. We also have a skilled workforce that could support the technical and physical needs of set production and logistics,” she said.”The domestic film and television industry continues to grow. It is always looking for that ‘right’ location which I feel that can be found in our municipality.”
Goodwin is hopeful that this project will provide new employment opportunities, generate revenue and support the retention and expansion of existing businesses. Staff will now issue a Request for Proposals to assess the viability of setting up a Film Office and map out a 5-year strategy, she said.
“We hope that this project will enable us to have an efficient and effective film process and production system that supports the needs of our businesses, residents and production companies wanting to work in Kawartha Lakes,” explained Goodwin.
According to City Councillor, Kathleen Seymour-Fegan, the film industry has the potential to grow our local economy substantially. And even though she believes the city should have tapped into the industry long ago, she is thrilled and optimistic that the process has begun.
“It’s a very exciting adventure that we could do up here, we need to look at things differently and think out of the box and attract the film industry here,” she said. “It’s perfect it is happening now, the opportunities are still there.”
Seymour-Fegan noted that film production is growing by leaps and bounds, while many large production companies such as Disney and Netflix are desperate for content. And while the pandemic has impacted the film sector, all studios in Ontario are fully booked, she added.
“The pandemic has resulted in a slowdown of productions which have needed to be postponed, as filming restarts, new safety guidelines have been put in place,” noted Seymour-Fegan. “The local impact includes new jobs, related skills development, new spin-off businesses, and an uptick in demand for goods and services to support the new industry in the area.”
According to Seymour-Fegan, North Bay has been a prime example of how beneficial the film industry can be as they recently launched a film studio.
“It has impacted the local economy huge in their municipality,” she explained. “It’s not just filming, it is bringing so many people in, its’ hospitality, food services, hotels, insurance, it’s like its own city.”
The report stated that the study will set the vision for the next five years of industry development and will identify the process needed to:
- start a municipal film office for processing and production and to market the City of Kawartha Lakes as a film-friendly community
- partner with local post-secondary institutions on a skills development program
- build cultural tourism products with community partners such as Fenelon Falls; Films by the Falls event, the Kawartha Art Gallery’s Toronto International Film Festival, and Fleming/Royal Ontario Museum partnership
And over the next five years, the goal is to establish the foundation of a solid creative economy ecosystem.
The proposed study work includes:
- Benchmark existing film services with comparable strategically selected municipalities
- Review current film industry and internal workflow processes, and provide a statement of future readiness to achieve Film Friendliness
- Based on the above, provide recommendations regarding a film office structure and services, including recommended Film Manager/Commissioner job
- identify policy recommendations to deliver Film Friendliness
- review any existing film-related fees
“In regard to the film industry, it is booming in Ontario, it would be amazing if we had studio facilities here. The increasing demand for additional film studios capacity in Ontario is well documented. The Industry is recognized at all levels of Government as significant and of increasing importance to the economy,” said Seymour-Fegan. “The film industry has continued working throughout this pandemic, although at reduced capacity. Through a tax credit system and other provincial provisions, the Ontario government continues to support the attraction of productions resulting in jobs and investments in the province.”