February 21, 2007

Nanaimo Film office's last film

There’s something ironic about a movie crew shooting just less than six weeks after city council closed the Nanaimo Film Office.

Vancouver filmmaker Andrew Bronstein wrapped up shooting Friday for Scourge, a horror flick about a worm that enters its victims through their belly buttons.

Getting that flick was the film office’s last accomplishment before its doors closed Dec. 31. The film has a $300,000 budget – not exactly big bucks in the film industry, but Bronstein is hopeful he can sell it to a national distributor when the editing is finished, in about a year.

He sees a lot of filmmaking potential in Nanaimo and says he wouldn’t be here, if not for the film office’s work and support.

“They made us feel great -– so hospitable, it’s nice to be here,” Bronstein told me.

The film office has cost taxpayers $80,000 a year to operate since it opened five years ago.

In January the function was taken over by the city's economic development office.

Marilyn Hutchinson, the city’s economic development officer, said location inquiries now come from either the Victoria Film Commission or the North Island Film Commission in Campbell River.

Bronstein said that could work, if Nanaimo is presented prominently in their location databases. He said filmmakers are busy people who don’t have time to pore through thousands of images or spend hours on the Internet searching for the ideal location.

A quick search found one Nanaimo image – the E&N train station, on the North Island commission’s website.

Victoria’s website contains dozens of stunning pictures of Victoria buildings, scenes and streetscapes and smaller sections with photos of Comox Valley and Parksville. Nanaimo is nowhere to be seen.

Bronstein is an enthusiastic supporter of developing a Canadian film industry using Canadian talent and Canadian locations. He said a user-friendly database that gives filmmakers easy access to a variety of locations would go a long way to developing the industry.

And he says currently there’s nothing to lead a filmmaker going into Victoria to look up-Island for what Nanaimo has to offer.

“It shouldn’t be hidden deep within the body of the database.”

The economic development office recently took over the film office’s computer database containing more than 2,500 images of Nanaimo area locations. Currently those photos aren’t available to browse online using a search engine like Google.

Hutchinson said she recently got an inquiry from Ford Canada for Nanaimo vistas to shoot photographs for an upcoming magazine ad campaign.

That inquiry was referred here from the Campbell River office.

Looking at the bigger picture, the list of accomplishments is short for the now-defunct Nanaimo Film Office.

Jacqui Kaese runs Spotlight Academy, which launched the careers of such up-and-coming actors as Cameron Bright and Justin Chatwin. Kaese, who came here from London, England, loves Nanaimo and wants to see it better represented for the industry.

“We could do so much more if we had that voice in the community,” Kaese says. “Unfortunately it wasn’t soon enough for the city. The city was expecting more.”