New money gets industry rolling

By Paul Pimentel

A local film association is setting up an office to attract multi-million dollar film and television productions to Ottawa, which could have a major economic impact on Centretown businesses.

“I think that Ottawa’s perched on the edge of a boom in the entertainment industry,” says Barbara Jordan, a local producer. “I think it will have a serious economic impact on the region.”

The regional government recently granted the Ottawa-Hull Film and Television Association $13,000 to create an office in Centretown, which would promote the city as a location for film and television productions, and serve as a liaison between local bureaucrats and out-of-town producers.

Aimée Britten, president of the association, says the association tries to work as a liaison between out-of-town producers and local bureaucrats, but it hasn’t been very effective because the organization is run on a volunteer basis.

She says producers often come to town on short notice and it’s difficult to find volunteers to help them.

“You run around like a fool looking for people who are available,” she says. “You can’t work like that.”

Britten says the grant, which has been matched by private sector donations, will allow the association to hire permanent staff to market the city abroad and provide information for out-of-town producers.

The new film office could bring huge economic benefits to the region, says Britten. For instance, productions often bring only skeleton crews with them on location and hire local sound crews, directors, actors, and photographers.

Film and television productions would have a particularly strong impact on Centretown because Elgin Street, the Byward Market, and Bank Street are some of the prime shooting locations in the city, says Britten.

Centretown businesses would benefit from those productions. Britten notes that when the TV series Justice was filming in Ottawa, they left $275,000 in the community, and that production only stayed in Ottawa for four days. Some local industries recognize this and would like to see more productions in the area.

Truck and car rental companies would like to see more film productions in Ottawa because they rent vehicles from them.

“It would increase revenues, and certainly if they’re using our trucks, it would get the brand name out there,” says Vicky Apperley, a reservations manager with Budget Car and Truck Rentals.

Hotels and restaurants would also benefit from an active film and television industry, says Britten.

Some restaurants encourage film production because productions provide food for local crews, and that brings in revenue. Also, if part of a film is shot in a restaurant, the restaurant will get exposure which will bring in more revenue in the long run.

“Any type of advertising like that will bring in business,” says Kalil Saikaley, owner of the Canal Ritz restaurant.

An active film industry can bring revenue into hotels because productions provide accommodation for out-of-town crews. Hotels can also use film production to promote themselves.

Anup Israni, director of marketing at the Westin Hotel, has made use of this kind of promotional tool. Last year, parts of Undercover Angel, a movie directed by Bryan Michael Stoller, and starring Yasmine Bleeth (formerly of Baywatch) were shot at his hotel.

“If the movie is a success and everyone sees the Westin Ottawa, it gives us some exposure.”

Israni sees bringing film and television production into Ottawa as beneficial to the local economy. But attracting these productions and keeping them coming back would be difficult without a film office.

Alyson Feltes, the producer of Justice, recently spoke out in the local media saying confusion over what level of government had jurisdiction over different locations, caused delays in her production schedule. She spent days trying to find out who was in charge of a plug on Parliament Hill. She says she’ll think twice before bringing future productions to Ottawa.

Britten says a film office could have helped Feltes avoid the bureaucratic troubles she encountered in Ottawa.

Britten says politicians, the entertainment industry, and other industries have to work together to market Ottawa as a site for film and television production. She is currently trying to develop partnerships with other industries — such as restaurants and hotels — to drum up support for the entertainment industry.