The first thing German director Uwe Boll said to Mel Weisbaum was “I want to shoot in Squamish.”
It's a sentence the Squamish resident and production manager wants to hear more often. And Weisbaum isn't alone. On Thursday (Jan. 24), the knowledge-based industry organization Inside Edge hosted a night to come up with strategies to lure Hollywood to town. Headed by a panel of production-industry members and stakeholders, the event focused on the community's opportunities and challenges in the field.
Last year, 22 productions shot in Squamish, a 52 per cent increase from 2011, said Dan McRae, the District of Squamish's economic development officer. That amounted to an estimated $1.5 million being pumped into local restaurants, hotels, shops and services.
“That is a very low, conservative estimate,” he said.
Since 2009, filming days in Squamish jumped 931 per cent — with productions shooting 22 days in 2009 and 227 days last year.
“Twenty-twelve has seen a banner year,” McRae said.
The industry comes with obstacles, he noted. Downtown is a hot spot for filming and supporting the needs of productions and businesses is a juggling act, McRae said. A week before Christmas, a number of store owners on Cleveland Avenue complained the production of the movie Suddenly blocked storefronts during the busiest shopping time of the year.
Those stores were compensated, district spokesperson Christina Moore said. The nature of the film industry is that plans change, she said, noting the snow altered the filming.
“I think every experience is a learning experience for us,” she said.
While 227 filming days is good, Squamish can do better, said Glenne Campbell, Squamish resident and Emmy Award-winning costume designer. Langley gets 561 filming days out of productions within its region, she noted.
One way to possibly boost Squamish's face time is the creation of a local film commission, Campbell said.
A film commission would give the municipality a profile with the production industry, said Wolfgang Richter, who helped set up the B.C. Film Commission. When creating such an organization, it's important to come up with a clear mandate, he said.
“A film commission is a thing the industry understands,” Richter said. “It shows that you are relatively organized.”
A missing piece of the puzzle is a list of local talent from which productions can draw, Weisbaum said. For the movie Suddenly, the production scouted 20 residents, he noted. It's cheaper for production to hire in Squamish than it is to bring people up from the Lower Mainland, he said.
“I need a list of all the people available,” Weisbaum said.
Squamish also needs to update and add to its digital location library on the B.C. Film Commission's website, Moore noted. Squamish residents can register their properties as possible filming locations. Weisbaum suggested various organizations encourage people to add their sites to the list at www.bcfilmcommission.com.
If you are in the film industry or interest in adding your name to a local talent list email Campbell at email@example.com.