The Okanagan’s film industry is putting on some much needed heft.
A key part of the plan to build up the region’s movie-making capabilities was approved this week by Kelowna City Counciil and a soundstage from Eagle Creek Studio will be built in the year ahead at a location near the airport. This development, from what Mayor Colin Basran has heard, has been the missing part of a growing industry.
“This will have a huge impact on future productions coming to Kelowna. The interest is real and we will see an influx of film work coming to Kelowna,” said Basran, who recently travelled to Vancouver to pitch the area’s appeal as a filmmaking destination to several animation companies.
“This really is the missing piece to our film industry and has really been holding us back in the growth of our film industry. This is a welcome piece of infrastructure for the growth of the industry.”
Jon Summerland, Okanagan Film Commissioner has been working toward getting a soundstage since he moved to the valley because it would increase the size and caliber of productions that could be made in the valley.
“It is a matter of just getting movies to cross over the coastal mountains. Now that there is a soundstage in our valley it is only going to be of benefit to the entire valley. Add to that the soundstage in Vernon and we are ready to host number of productions,” said Summerland.
“We have a great infrastructure with the soundstages that we could get one of the long format TV series, which there will be lots with Amazon and Netflicks. There is all this product to make and Vancouver is getting saturated so we are looking very sexy.”
Summerland said series like Stranger Things on Netflix are a good example of what’s possible.
“It is an awesome show that is shot in Georgia that could be shot here, build the sets in our studios and next thing you know we have a worldclass TV series shot right in our hood. That will only line up more.”
That’s an idea that Andy Holmes supports.
He’s originally from Kelowna, but moved to Vancouver to work in film industry, and was the co producer for the Humanity Bureau starring Nicolas Cage shot in South Okanagan
“The tax credits have been fantastic. It is pretty tough to not fit every type of location in the Okanagan. You can go from snowy mountains, to lakes, towns and cities with older houses,” he said.
“The Humanity Bureau called for a desert so we go to the South Okanagan. The Recall with Wesley Snipes filmed in Vernon because they needed the beautiful forests at SilverStar.”
The studio will only bolster the appeal.
“Vancouver will always stay busy but the Okanagan will continue to grow as it shows they have crews with experience that are ready to work,” said Holmes.
“Look at the latest movie announced to be filming in the Osoyoos area with Casey Affleck, they were scouting Victoria right before they decided on the Okanagan. There is a reason for that. They could get the support they needed, good location rates and an area to film that isn’t exhausted. It is easy for producers to keep coming back here as Vancouver only gets busier.”
If there’s any reason to question the value of the industry, everyone talking about this studio have highlighted the economic spin-off.
For the Nicholas Cage movie, approximately 80 people were moved into the Nk’Mip resort in Osoyoos for two months, during the off-season.
“They were building sets, hiring catering companies, using the gas stations and buying lumber. It was about one million dollars on the local spend including wages for a lot of people in the South Okanagan,” said Holmes.
“I don’t think the Okanagan is going to turn itself into a second Vancouver, but that is the beautiful thing about it. It doesn’t need to be. Last summer there was close to 75 productions in Vancouver and it was way too busy. There is trickle effect that is bringing more to the Okanagan and allowing the area to enjoy the filmmaking process.”
For more information on the new studio, studio designs, and on the Okanagan Film Commission visit Okanagan Film’s website.