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Okanagan film industry booming

The film industry in BC’s interior has had a stellar year in production, as more and more people are looking towards the Okanagan to film their independent or big blockbuster films.

Since the start of the pandemic, rather than the industry slowing down it’s only ramped up work according to Okanagan Film Commissioner, Jon Summerland.

“We were busy because of COVID. When COVID first started and everybody was locked up, we tried to come up with ways that we could quarantine entire crews together and still make movies. We were the first place in Canada to have filming during COVID,” said Summerland.

“Because of that, we built up the industry. We were the place to go, and we were safe. WorksafeBC had someone on set with us the entire time, and so they learned the protocol along with us, and so we were instrumental in just creating the COVID protocol for the film industry in BC.”

This year alone 30 productions have made their way to the region, filming in a multitude of locations across the Central Okanagan and beyond.

Kelowna has been brought to the forefront when standing out in the area due to the most infrastructure with trucks and experienced crews, but other locations like Penticton, Bridesville, Ashcroft, Vernon, Osoyoos and Cawston have become popular locations to shoot.

The City of Kelowna has also been working closely alongside the film industry to ensure that permits are easily accessible for crews, and Summerland compared the city’s advanced permitting to that of the Fraser Valley.

“When you have municipalities that work well with the film industry and know what they're talking about, it makes them (producers) relax and say ‘oh, we’re filming there again’,” he said.

</who>Photo credit: Stock photo

The only problem is that the region lacks the facilities to house big name films that are in need of large sound stages to film entire movies out here.

A smaller scale sound stage was built out by the Kelowna airport just a few years ago, but lacked space and never got anything bigger than an independent feature.

Although big pictures are only coming out to the Okanagan to use landscapes that replicate places like Northern California or Italy, smaller scale films are still being produced locally.

Crews in town are able to edit, work on pre production, and wrap, and many people from the coast are seeing the successes in the Okanagan and making the move to join the growing industry.

“Economically we are able to pay the wage of quite a few locals, helping pay mortgages. Right now there’s two movies shooting, two crews, a minimum of 60 people a day, so 120 people are paying their mortgages because of the industry.”

Looking ahead to the future residents can expect feature films and bigger talent rolling through town now that borders are starting to re-open, but a major goal for the commissioner would be to land television shows which would mean higher pay and unions for those working out in the Okanagan.

“Once you’ve got a television series you’ve kinda won the lottery with film, because they have longevity, you know after every movie you’re unemployed and then you’re employed again.”

“But we can expect growth, the sky's the limit for us really. When do we tell it to slow down is really more the question. It is going to keep coming, because we are successful.”

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