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Victoria buzzing with filming activity so far this year

But South Island film commissioner worries the pandemic-delayed uptick could be short-lived
A film crew prepares for a shoot downtown on Broad Street this week in Victoria. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Victoria saw a huge uptick in filming activity in the first half of 2021, something Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert said is likely the result of pandemic circumstances.

So far this year, the City of Victoria has issued 93 filming permits, compared to 95 in all of 2020, 85 in 2019 and 76 in 2018. It’s a large increase, but sadly it may be a bit of a one-off situation, Gilbert said.

Because the filming industry was put on hold for several months at the start of the pandemic, there has been a backlog of productions working to get their shooting done across the Capital Regional District.

And, Gilbert said, the Island has become fairly well known as a location with few COVID-19 cases. She thinks actors may have pushed to film in safer locations closer to home.

There are only three productions being shot in the CRD this month – The Last Will and Testament of Charles Abernathy, Rescued by Ruby and Rise and Shine Benedict Stone – and little lined up over the summer, but Gilbert said they will have a healthy fall and winter season.

They’re also working to nail down a deal Gilbert couldn’t provide details on, but said would be the size of the Netflix show Maid.

READ ALSO: Healthy lineup of filming set for Greater Victoria in 2021

Convincing productions to shoot here can be tricky. Sometimes, Gilbert said, they’ll be provided with an extensive shot list and they have to go location hunting to try and find enough local spots to fit the bill. Weather, having enough crew members and providing high quality hotels can also make or break a deal.

For instance, if a production is looking to film a show set in the summer during the winter, the commission needs to prove that they will have sunny skies, no snow and residential areas with no deciduous trees that would give away the season.

Throughout the pandemic, drawing in productions has provided a life-line to the CRD’s accommodation industry. In some cases, actors and film crews were the only people filling the region’s hotels.

In 2020, productions brought $55 million in direct spending to the CRD, more than doubling the previous high of $20 million in one year. This, Gilbert said, is the commission’s goal – to support local business.

READ ALSO: This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media after starting as a community reporter in Greater Victoria.
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