Film booming in Okanagan

The Okanagan’s film industry is busier than ever.

Jon Summerland of the Okanagan Boundary Similkameen Film Commission said there are now three film crews around the Okanagan, with more interest pouring into the region.

An original movie series, Hallmark’s Autumn in the Vineyard started filming in Oliver on Sunday, adding to two films in the works in Vernon.

He added that another movie, the name of which has not yet been announced, is looking at Kelowna as a filming location. Another director is looking at Osoyoos as a possible location to shoot desert scenes. A third, who shot previously in the North Okanagan, is now looking to the south end of the valley.

“We’ve never been this busy, ever,” Summerland said, noting that part of that is due to the low Canadian dollar. “But now it’s also the fact that we are a real place to film. We are a region where you can make your movies beautiful and inexpensively.”

Two movies, Recall by Mind’s Eye Entertainment and Drink, Slay, Love by Sepia Films are being shot in Vernon, currently.

On top of that, he noted Mind’s Eye has taken to using a building in Vernon as a studio for production, rather than shooting the film and leaving.

He also said the filming in Oliver, which is shooting near the town for nearly a week, is expected to bring about $100,000 to $125,000 per day into the area, through salaries paid locally and crews spending money on things like food and drink.

“They’ll leave that money in the economy, which is great for British Columbia,” he said.

But more importantly, according to Summerland, the film crews talking about the Okanagan to other people in the industry could help to develop that industry in the area.

“We don’t want one-offs. What we want is an industry,” he said. “We have become a production centre. We are the busiest outside of the Lower Mainland.”

Summerland pointed to the benefits of having films coming to the area, including a snowball effect of an expanding film industry in the Okanagan.

A good experience in the Okanagan for an actor or a director can start conversations in the industry, potentially spurring more productions in the region.

“When you get a movie in town, you’ve probably got another 100 people coming in to say, ‘Oh my gosh, look at this, look how beautiful it is in British Columbia. Look how beautiful it is in the Okanagan,'” he said.

“It attracted movie stars that are friends with these movie stars that go, ‘Where’s that?’ And next thing you know, they’re trying to get on the movies that are filming here.”

That, with the added bonus of the film industry’s cultural influence, Summerland said it could help to develop the area as a tourist destination.

“Every one of these actors have a million-plus followers on their Twitter,” he said. “So they’re going, ‘I’m in this amazing place I didn’t know existed,’ and they’re tweeting it.”

Actors tweeting about their visits to local vineyards or beaches, he said, is free advertising for the area as a place to visit.

“When you have movie stars there, people want to know where they are,” he said.

Still, one thing is missing, according to Summerland, that would cement the industry in the Okanagan: a regular TV show filmed in the valley.

“What we need to have a full-on, full-time, pay-your-mortgage-every day industry is a television series. A television series needs a sound stage, purpose built,” he said.

“So, that’s our missing link.”

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