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TV, film productions set up shop on Vancouver Island, rake in millions for local economy

The North Island is catching Hollywood’s attention.

The natural beauty and scenery continues to lure in movie stars and film crews, not only profiling the region on the big screen but also helping to boost the local economy.

Film commissioner Joan Miller with INFilm (Vancouver Island North Film Commission) recently provided Campbell River council with an overview of the growing success of the film industry and its economic impact on the island.

She also shared changes and recovery related to the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing training, and film tourism opportunities.

Back in 2018, Miller says filming locations for the Apple+ TV series SEE starring Jason Momoa included Ralph River, Myra Falls and Discovery Industrial Park. Scouting, prep and principle production commenced on April 15th, 2018, and wrapped on February 5th, 2019.

Miller says this production raked in millions for the economy: over $3.5 million went to local vendors, with around $3.2 million contributed to local payroll. And, during the filming of SEE, over 19,000 local hotel room nights were booked.

Miller says the payroll part really showed that INFilm’s hard work in regards to growing and training crew was paying off, “and I realize with our tourism partners it was a big impact for tourism services as well.”

Throughout 2019, a handful of documentaries were also filmed on the island, including CBC’s The Nature of Things and the UK Natural History Documentary, Minotaur.

The momentum was going strong, with Miller noting INFilm “started to really build up for a huge 2020” with help from a big blockbuster franchise: Jurassic World 3 filmed at Elk Falls Park and Menzies Mountain last year, and Miller says locals can spot some familiar sites in the film’s trailer.

“I’ve seen the trailer, I can pick out our trees and forests,” she says.

Miller says the Jurassic crew was able to get in and film before Covid hit; however, its release date has now been pushed to 2022 in hopes of a full-theatre release.

A few other productions were set to film on the island last year, including a show that follows a family from Quebec to Campbell River. But on March 13th, 2020, Miller says everything was put on hold due to the pandemic. She says INfilm then pivoted and started working on things they could control, like training programs.

With 2021 now in full swing, Miller is keeping her hopes up. She says her team is heavily into scouting right now, and adds that they’ve got some “really big projects” on the go.

Jason Mamoa and director Francis Lawrence returned to the island this past February to film Slumberland. They filmed on Desolation Sound from the 20th through to the 24th, and utilized numerous local services like water taxis.

“They are filming a majority of it in Ontario, but he wanted to come back because he loved the area,” Miller says, adding that while it was only four days of filming, months of preparation went into the logistics to pull it all together.

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