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City's first-ever film officer aims to up Sudbury shoots

City council voted to create the position during 2022 budget deliberations last year; Clayton Drake experienced in Sudbury film industry
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City manager of tourism and culture Lara Fielding, film officer Clayton Drake and business development officer Emily Trottier are seen at The Grotto overlooking the city’s downtown core.

A “fixer” for local film and television productions, film officer Clayton Drake, has started work in a position city council created in this year’s budget to help spur the industry locally.

Drake draws experience from his five years filling various roles in the industry, including as assistant location manager for “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City,” which filmed in Greater Sudbury in 2020.

“I was really impressed that we were able to shoot such a big-budget film in Sudbury, considering the scale and impact of it,” he told Sudbury.com, adding the effort was aided by the COVID-19 pandemic, oddly enough, due to various things being shut down.

“They wanted everything to be wet at all times and it was October, and the whole thing was shot at night, so difficult working conditions.”

Drake has also worked on the television series “Letterkenny,” also filmed in Greater Sudbury, and various other film and television series throughout the province.

What’s even more exciting than what has already been filmed in Greater Sudbury are the possibilities ahead, he said, noting that eight productions have been filmed thus far in 2022 and more are on the horizon.

A “traumedy” called “Bloody Hell” was filmed in Greater Sudbury earlier this summer starring Maddie Ziegler (“West Side Story”) and Emily Hampshire (“Schitt’s Creek”) and a movie version of the R.L. Stine book “Zombie Town” is being filmed this year.

Longstanding television series “Letterkenny” and its spinoff show, “Shoresy” appear destined to continue filming in Greater Sudbury, with city council approving a three-year lease of the Capreol Arena earlier this month for use as a film studio. 

Further, Drake noted a few travelling reality television shows have filmed in Greater Sudbury this year and are “going to make quite a bit of noise when they do release them,” Drake said.

The film officer program was greenlit during 2022 budget deliberations late last year, when city council unanimously approved spending $78,535 on hiring someone for the role. A business case by city administration “conservatively” estimated the film officer would bring in an additional three to six productions per year, generate an additional $4.2 to $8.4 million in local spending and strengthen capacity “by enhancing the level and quality of specially-trained production crew members and growing the local sector’s resilience

In this role, city manager of tourism and culture Lara Fielding anticipates Drake not only helping film crews navigate bureaucracy, but help link them up with movers and shakers within the local film industry, scout filming locations and increase the city’s database for filming locations and thereby market the city for future productions.

Drake said he’ll advocate on behalf of filmmakers by making sure “all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed” and ensuring everything is left in a better state than when they found it.

Film and television productions have resulted in local spending of approximately $200 million since 2012. Of the 141 productions filmed during this timeframe, 3,725 local crew have been hired, which amounts to approximately 57 per cent of the productions’ total crew. 

“The community welcome we give these productions is key, and that’s what lends itself to repeats,” said business development officer Emily Trottier, whose role has absorbed those of the film officer position in recent years, which Drake will dedicate his time to filling on a full-time basis. 

“I think there’s something really special about this city, and I’m hoping to share that more widely through this role,” Drake said. 

Meanwhile, he’s also going to be working to add Greater Sudbury locations to the Ontario Film Commission location library, which will help market the city to filmmakers. 

“Because of the sheer scale of the city, being the second-largest municipality in the country, there aren’t a lot of other cities that can offer the same diversity and geography Greater Sudbury does,” he said. 

Small town, rural, urban and downtown settings join the natural world and industrial settings in rounding out Greater Sudbury’s range of film settings. 

“There’s a lot of different looks you can achieve in the city, and that’s part of what’s so attractive,” Drake said.

Those interested in hosting a film or television production on their property can email film@greatersudbury.com to have their location added to the registry.

With demand for film studio space anticipated to outpace supply in the next several years, according to a study conducted by Nordicity, the not-for-profit Cultural Industries Ontario North has proposed a $35-million film studio in Greater Sudbury. 

The studio is still in its earliest stages, but Freshwater Production Studios is planned to be a 116,000-square-foot building on The Kingsway.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.