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Big screen having big impact in Richmond

Don Fennell   Mar-15-2018

Film industry leaders speak at Big Screen, Big Impact event at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

Photo courtesy City of Richmond


The big screen is a big deal in Richmond.

Enjoying strong growth, B.C.’s film sector is pumping millions of dollars annually into the Richmond economy, according to a panel of industry heavyweights who spoke to a sold-out audience of local business people late last year at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

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And there’s no signs of a slow down any time soon.

“The industry’s extensive economic impact in Richmond and B.C. is staggering,” said Richmond chamber president Matt Pitcairn. “From the people employed in the industry, to the locations and services our community provides, there are so many opportunities for business owners to reap its benefits.”

A city news release indicated the film industry generates $2.7 billion in annual spending province-wide. In Richmond, that includes $27 million in wages paid to local residents, and $500,000 in fees and charges collected by the city in 2016. Richmond enjoyed successive record-breaking years for filming activity in 2015 and 2016.

Commercial filming took place three out of every four days in Richmond in 2016. During that span, eight feature films (two major motion pictures) were shot, 12 TV shows, and 18 commercials.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie says the city is committed to being a film-friendly community.

“We’re working closely with our government and industry partners to leverage our collaborative approach and outstanding location inventory to bring even more spending and jobs to our city,” he says.

Speaking as part of Big Screen, Big Impact, a panel discussion co-hosted by the city and chamber last year, four industry leaders indicated a bright future. Panelists included Kathy Gilroy, producer of the popular TV series Once Upon a Time; Peter Leitch, chair of the Motion Pictures Production Industry Association of B.C., and president of North Shore Studios; Sandi Cooper, BC Film commissioner; and Kendrie Upton, director of the Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia. The focus of this event was to explore the positive economic impact of the film industry, with a focus on the economic impact to Richmond.

“We were fortunate to be able to bring in four heavy-hitters in the local film industry, who were able to talk about the ins and outs of the industry and provide some valuable information to the event attendees on the spin-off effects of the filming sector as well as how they can engage with filming if desired,” says Richmond Film Office co-ordinator Jodie Shebib.

Richmond has been a desirable film location for many years, but has followed the provincial trends in recent years which have seen dramatic growth, says Shebib.

“Tax incentives, a low Canadian dollar, proximity to Vancouver International Airport and Los Angeles, make Richmond a very desirable location,” she explains. “The increase in content has also been dramatic with streaming services providing substantially more shows than network television ever has. All of those issues aside, Richmond continues to be a popular film location because of the unique landscapes such as the small-town village feel of Steveston as well as a generally film-friendly business/public community and a highly-skilled workforce.”

The Richmond Film Office is a one-stop shop for productions looking to film in the city. It provides access to all city services, locations and other resources such as the RCMP. This eliminates the need for productions to have multiple calls to different departments in order to have a successful film shoot.

“This method benefits the film industry, but also the general public, as staff can ensure that all departments needing to review a film application are consulted and that safety matters and public relations issues are dealt with,” says Shebib. “The complexity of film shoots has dramatically increased in recent years with the use of unmanned aerial devices (drones), special effects, stunts and traffic control. It is very important to have oversight from one point of contact (the film office) to ensure proper management of filming in the community.”

The longest-running, recurring television show to film in Richmond, specifically Steveston, Once Upon a Time helped to raise the profile of filming locally. Shebib says the show brought a lot of attention to Steveston Village, with fans making regular visits to see The Real Storybrooke. But, she says, it was certainly not the first high-profile show to film in Richmond.

“Due to its longevity (a full six seasons of regular filming), it is often the first show that comes to mind,” she says. “(However), prior to Once Upon a Time there were other feature films that were set partially in Richmond, including Twilight, Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2, and Fifty Fifty and television shows going back as far as the original X Files, Smallville and Supernatural (currently in its 13th season). Now that Once Upon a Time is no longer filming regularly in Richmond, there are a number of other television shows attempting to work in the area. Recently, two new shows—Siren and The Crossing—filmed here and both will air in 2018 and feature prominent views of Steveston Village.”

Shebib says Richmond is a strong location resource for the industry, and moving forward anticipates more filming in urban areas.

The Richmond Film office is working to expand its locations database with Creative BC and is currently conducting a photographic inventory of under-filmed, city-owned locations. Shebib says any residents and merchants interested in having their property filmed in, are encouraged to upload photos to the Creative BC website at www.creativebc.ca. She says location scouts use this library as a starting point when selecting film locations.

Above all, Shebib says it is crucial that the industry have a good experience in Richmond.


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