Saanich-based director and co-producer Arnold Lim (centre) guides crew members before shooting a scene for the feature film All-in Madonna. The film was shot in and around Victoria and the South Island in 2019. (Photo by Patrick Coble/Blue Lake Films).

Saanich-based director and co-producer Arnold Lim (centre) guides crew members before shooting a scene for the feature film All-in Madonna. The film was shot in and around Victoria and the South Island in 2019. (Photo by Patrick Coble/Blue Lake Films).

Greater Victoria listed #5 among best small cities to live, work as a filmmaker

MovieMaker Magazine slots region in behind New Orleans, Santa Fe, Pittsburgh and Savannah

With no film studio close at hand and professional crew tending to gravitate across the pond, it’s not easy to be a filmmaker in Greater Victoria.

That didn’t stop film production industry website MovieMaker Magazine from placing the region at No. 5 on its top 10 list of best small cities to live and work as a moviemaker, behind (in order) New Orleans; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Pittsburgh and Savannah, Georgia.

“To be the only small city in Canada to be named and be up there with Santa Fe and New Orleans, with the amount of production that goes on in those cities, is amazing,” said Kathleen Gilbert, film commissioner for the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission.

Even more amazing, she said, is that Greater Victoria is the only place on the list that does not have a dedicated film studio.

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Such criteria as quality of life, affordability, availability of crews, variety of locations and film friendly jurisdictions were taken into account by MovieMaker.

Don Enright, a veteran film and TV producer/director who moved to Victoria with his wife in 2011 after spending years in Los Angeles and New York, is a big fan of the region and its attractions for filmmakers.

“We were both were in high-pressure jobs and we were thinking about getting out, and then I saw this place,” he said, recalling his first visit to the region to shoot the Lifetime romantic comedy Perfect Romance in 2004. “I called my wife up and said ‘I think I’ve found it.’”

He had been filming in Canada for years, mostly in Toronto, but was told he had to shoot the film in March. Someone suggested Victoria and he flew in to check it out. “I got off the airplane, got into a taxi and 100 yards later saw cows at the airport, I was knocked out by the place.”

Enright, who these days serves as secretary of the executive board for the local film commission, was also struck by more practical reasons for shooting here, like Greater Victoria’s ability to stand in for other cities.

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He told a story about filming the 2007 TV crime drama Cleaverville here, a film set in New Jersey. After it aired, Enright said, “we got a call from the New Jersey film commission asking us where in New Jersey it was shot.”

Not only do the transformable locations, mild climate and continued public appreciation of film crews working here make the region attractive, the laid-back yet dedicated nature of Island technicians and crew makes them a pleasure to work with.

“People have this openness that lends itself to a cohesive work unit,” he said. “The thing I’ve always loved about shooting here was that idea you could build a sense of team. The whole is bigger than the individual.”

Find the full top 10 list, and read about Vancouver making the big city list at No. 5, at moviemaker.com.


 

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