Film and television productions in Greater Sudbury have resulted in local spending that has totaled more than $200 million since 2012.
This includes 141 productions whose crews totalled 3,725 Sudburians positions, which constitutes 57 per cent of their total complement of staff.
These details were included in a report City of Greater Sudbury business development officer Emily Trottier prepared for Thursday night’s finance and administration committee meeting.
City council requested the report last month when they pledged in-kind support of $50,000 toward the production of Shoresy, a Letterkenny spin-off television series currently being filmed in the city, including at the Sudbury Community Arena.
Although the report speaks to how much the city’s film industry has grown over the years and how important it is to the local economy, it also points to where it’s losing ground.
This, Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland said, is why he moved a successful motion earlier this week to have the city include a film officer position in their 2022 budget.
“We’ve gotten to a really good place now where we have high-tier films coming to town with big budgets … and that slowed down during the last year or two while it’s picked up in North Bay,” he told Sudbury.com following Thursday’s meeting.
“We’re really falling behind, and now we need to get back to a level playing field.”
As the report notes, the provincially funded Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation’s Film and Television Program injects funds into local film productions and has been a “major driver in attracting investments to the north.”
The percentage of funded projects that have been filmed in Greater Sudbury has dropped in recent years, from 40 per cent from 2004 to 2018 to 29 per cent in the past few years.
More productions have been shifting to the City of North Bay, which has a dedicated staff person “to lead strong film investment attraction efforts and has developed excellent marketing of locations, crews and amenities.”
This, McCausland said, is why it was a relief to see city council unanimously approve a business case earlier this week for a film officer position to be created at an annual cost of $78,535.
The city’s arts, culture and film business development officer has already been working to fill this role, but two-thirds of their time is eaten up by other areas of their diverse portfolio.
A business case written by the city’s economic development department notes that a full-time staff member dedicated to film productions would help grow the industry.
Their conservative estimate indicates that the hiring of a full-time dedicated staff member would result in the attraction of three to six productions per year, which would carry an additional $4.2 to $8.4 million in local spending.
Even on the most conservative end of this conservative estimate, McCausland said this is an excellent value for money opportunity.
He is no slouch when it comes to the local film industry, having been employed in various roles between gigs as a touring musician prior to becoming a city councillor. This included a role as a grip during the first two seasons of Letterkenny.
There are a lot of talented people working in the film industry locally, he said, adding that they hit a positive momentum several years ago that he looks forward to seeing continue with the help of a dedicated film officer — a “fixer” who will help film productions do whatever they need to do.
During this week’s budget meeting, city director of economic development Meredith Armstrong cited these tasks as including everything from road closures to blowing up a car at 2 a.m.
With countless productions coming up on the horizon as a result of various streaming services increasing the demand, McCausland said there’s plenty of untapped potential in the Greater Sudbury area for the film officer to tap into.
“We have available capacity here we can hopefully use and develop,” he said, adding that Letterkenny is a good example of a local success story.
“It’s really encouraging to see a show like Letterkenny do really well on an international stage and to expand their offering with a new show also made in Sudbury, Shoresy,” he said, adding that they’ve seen the positives in filming here and have continued to do so.
“They’ve got an incredible crew and they’ve been through a lot together, and that’s the kind of connection we want to make.”
The direction for the city to hire a film officer still needs to be ratified by city council as a whole, which is expected to happen next week.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.