Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 7, 2010
SOMBA K'E/YELLOWNIFE - Southern film producers who phone the NWT Film Commission to ask about shooting a television or film production in the territory are greeted by a friendly and familiar voice.
Great Slave MLA Glen Abernethy: ITI should develop a NWT film commission.
"Your call has been forwarded to an automatic voice message system," she says. "At the tone, please record your message. When you have finished recording you may hang up..."
The commission's web page on the GNWT Department of Industry Tourism and Investment (ITI) website is only slightly more helpful. It introduces visitors to a small selection of goods and services needed by visiting film crews, such as catering. Out of seven Yellowknife restaurants listed, three no longer exist. The site also underestimates Yellowknife's population by about 1,000 people and misspells "writing" and other simple words.
"There is not a real film commission in the NWT," said Great Slave MLA Glen Abernethy. "But there is a significant opportunity here, I believe, to support the film industry and not necessarily with a lot of money. Hopefully we can convince ITI to establish an NWT film commission."
Abernethy and Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins are joining several members of Yellowknife's film industry this afternoon to ask ITI Minister Bob McLeod to launch an independent feasibility study into the value of building a proper film commission in the territory. Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley is out of town and is not able to attend the meeting.
"We are the only province or territory that has no film commission, technically, to speak of," said Jay Bulckaert, one of the professional filmmakers who initiated today's meeting. "We want the government to really hear from us. We're here. We're serious. We're professional. We exist."
Filmmakers Pablo Saravanja, France Benoit and Amos Scott are also meeting with the minister today.
Scott, a producer with the Native Communications Society, said they would like the minister to swiftly establish a film commission advisory committee composed of industry professionals who could help educate the department about the needs and concerns of independent filmmakers. A feasibility study would illuminate the benefits for private industries, such as hotels, restaurants, equipment rentals, commercial airlines, private charters, vehicle rentals and other transportation, as well as spinoffs of employment opportunities and tourism promotion.
The filmmakers also want the department to institute a full-time film commissioner who is knowledgeable about the industry and its potential, Scott said.
He would like to see ITI commit small funding to filmmakers to make short productions such as music videos that they could use to gain credibility for applying to federal grants to produce larger work in the NWT.
"Many of the government's funds that are out there don't accommodate film and TV and we need to change that attitude in government so it becomes a viable option in the territory," he said. "Being realistic, we have some short term policy goals that the GNWT can accomplish without very much money involved. The easiest thing they can do is provide up to date and relevant information on their website."