The head of the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission said the region risks losing economic development if the commission is unable to secure full funding.
Kathleen Gilbert, commissioner of the Vancouver Island South Film & Media Commission, said the commission cannot continue to offer what she calls “top-shelf service that resulted in a $50 million boost to the CRD economy” in 2020 without full funding.
While the commission’s original budget for 2020 called for $256,340, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the commission to re-jig it, said Gilbert, who appeared before Sidney council Monday. “(Some) of our municipal funders removed grants in aid from their budgets, we also saw a drop in corporate sponsorships,” she told the Peninsula News Review, adding that the commission cut all non-essentials budget items such as travel, marketing, events, education and parking to help keep the commission’s “doors open for the remainder of the year” with a grant budget of $154,500.
The commission also received $32,000 in COVID-19 assistance from government sources on top of $20,000 in other revenue.
“Without this extra government emergency funding, we would have to greatly reduce the services that we offer,” she said. This said, requests for commission services did not stop during COVID-19 pandemic. “In fact, they increased,” said Gilbert.
“Understand that these are not audited figures and working within this budget does not allow us to grow this industry,” she said in an interview. “To grow the industry you must market the region and that costs money. We are, however, so grateful for those funding partners who recognized the value of our work and continued to fund us through these difficult times and we are hopeful that 2021 will see a return to full funding from all our funding partners.”
According to Gilbert’s letter to Sidney council, the local film industry started 2020 with another record-breaking slate of productions. “Then COVID hit and March saw the entire production side of North America’s film industry close down, putting most of our local crew and B.C.’s 70,000 film employees out of work,” she said.
Pre and post-production continued to work remotely, and after months of high level collaboration between all parties crews returned to work in July with strict protocols designed to create a safe working environment in place.
“In total, we saw 38 productions shoot in the CRD in 2020, resulting in an estimated $50 million in direct spending, smashing our previous record of $20 million in one year,” she said.
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