Ottawa’s film industry reaches new heights, supported by growing demand for content during pandemic

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It has been a successful year for film and television in Ottawa, and industry experts say the best is yet to come.

As an industry that was able to keep production going during the pandemic, advocates say Ottawa’s film sector is strengthening the city’s economy and helping support small businesses during a difficult year of shutdowns.

The Ottawa Film Bureau, a local non-profit industry organization, calculates that live drama productions generated a record $ 15.8 million for the city’s economy during the premiere. half of 2021 – a 12% increase over the same period in 2019, the previous industry peak year. International networks that have shot productions in Ottawa over the past year include Lifetime, Oprah Winfrey Network and Hallmark.

Shane Boucher, a producer at film production company 1Department Entertainment Services, said he is already working on his seventh film this year.

“Because we were allowed to work with strict protocols in place, we were able to go to places like stores to film, which offered a little economic relief to these companies,” Boucher said.

According to the Film Bureau, 40 to 60 percent of film budgets are typically spent on local goods and services. Ottawa’s combined film, television and animation productions typically contribute more than $ 100 million to the local economy each year.

Boucher explained that in addition to paying companies for filming on their properties, filming on location often brings business to nearby hotels and restaurants as well as other traders and suppliers.

“Whether we pay for the entire floor of a hotel, pay a catering company, or rent parking (for) all of our trucks, we spend thousands of dollars every day in the city,” he said. -he declares.

The Ottawa Advantage

As studios, networks and streaming services have boosted production to meet demand for new content during the pandemic, observers say Ottawa’s growing reputation as an affordable and geographically diverse filming location has given it a boost. allowed to succeed.

Boucher, who has worked in the film industry for more than 15 years, said the city’s mix of historic and modern buildings, along with its quaint waterways and neighboring villages, make Ottawa easily a substitute for multiple eras. and places.

“More recently we (worked on) amazing Grace for the OWN network, where Ottawa doubled for Atlanta, ”he said, adding that the opportunities to film in four separate seasons give him another advantage.

A film crew on the set of Amazing Grace.

Ottawa Cinema Commissioner Bruce Harvey notes that the ability to move between communities in and around the city with relative ease is another advantage over many other Canadian cities.

“You can go from rural areas to the urban city center in 15 to 20 minutes. If you are planning to shoot downtown Vancouver and go anywhere (otherwise), it will take you hours to get there, ”he said. “Here you need a maximum of half an hour to get anywhere in the city. “

After establishing himself as a reliable hub for international productions, Harvey said Ottawa’s critical next steps should be to develop the team base and production companies that are located here.

In addition to Algonquin College’s broadcast and film and media production programs, which help cultivate local talent, Harvey noted that building a new soundstage near West Hunt Club Road and Woodroffe Avenue will not work. that add to Ottawa’s appeal as an attractive location to film.

“The big commitments to the film industry are about drama series, and in order to be able to film them you have to have a soundstage where you can build permanent sets,” he said. “Being able to build, control the environment, and film in a location where you don’t interfere with others (in public) is essential.”

“It’s the whole ecosystem that comes together and really helps get things done,” he added.

Looking ahead to Ottawa’s future in cinema, Harvey said the city is in a privileged position to begin supporting larger productions.

“I predict that in the next four to five years the numbers will be five times higher than what we are doing today. Once we hit those thresholds, the capacity to grow will be exponential. “

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