Between 2015 and 2017, over 100 feature-length films and television productions were shot in Northern Ontario, compared to 65 projects during 2012 to 2014.
The marked increase is attributable, in part, to a $600,000 investment from FedNor in 2013 to Cultural Industries Ontario North (CION), a non-profit cultural organization serving the needs of everyone working in music, film and television across Northern Ontario.
Among other things, the funding supported a program entitled Media Arts Production: Practised, Employed, Developed, commonly referred to as MAPPED. Designed to provide work and training opportunities for Northern Ontario’s media arts production crew members, MAPPED also ensured that companies complied with labour laws and industry best practices
Eligible local and visiting production companies could apply for funding to help train Northern Ontario residents who were working in the film and television industry. Partial funding was available to hire up to six Northern Ontario crew trainees per production, to a maximum of $10,000, through MAPPED’s crew training program.
“In the short-term, it was designed to address some of the crew shortages that production companies were encountering,” explained Patrick O’Hearn, Associate Managing Director of Cultural Industries Ontario North. “The longer term goal was to develop a pool of talent so that visiting production companies could access local talent, thereby eliminating some of the challenges of working in Northern Ontario, and assist an emerging industry to grow. Furthermore, our objective was to gradually reduce the percentage of talent to be outsourced,” he added.
In addition to directly funding roughly 90 positions as part of the FedNor initiative, private sector businesses leveraged their MAPPED contributions that supported the direct creation of approximately 13 full-time jobs. With each film requiring a gamut of support ranging from accounting and payroll to location scouts, set design and catering, participants were able to choose a placement that best suited their interests, giving them valuable experience.
Sudbury’s own Christine Rochon is one person who has benefitted. Her first placement in 2015 put her in the Assistant Director’s department on the TV series, Slasher.
“This is where I learned about filmmaking in a practical sense, gaining an appreciation of how all the equipment and people work together,” shared Christine Rochon, a MAPPED participant. “I had a firsthand view and opportunity to learn from the best, watching the cast, director and director of photography quickly plan how a scene would play out to enable the rest of the crew to proceed with their work.”
In 2017, MAPPED collaborated with an experienced producer from Toronto to bring the Indiecan-20K Challenge to Northern Ontario. The competition called for a first-time producer, director and an original screenplay. Rochon and her business partner Tomas Street were successful in winning the opportunity to produce and shoot their feature film Fugue, in Sudbury. She credits her initial MAPPED experience with giving her the onset knowledge to successfully bring a film to completion. With few exceptions, the crew was all from Northern Ontario.
“Fugue is now being screened at festivals in Ontario, Los Angeles and even in Jaipur, India,” added Rochon. “MAPPED is assisting so many people to find their niche in the film and TV industry, as well as a mentor to help them to make a living doing what they love here in Northern Ontario.”
The emergence of service businesses that support the film and television industry, according to O’Hearn, is concrete proof of MAPPED’s influence.
“William F. White International – a stage lighting equipment supplier – has established an office in Sudbury,” noted O’Hearn. “In addition, the growth of the Northern Ontario Film Studio here in Sudbury, as well as in North Bay, made it possible for Hallmark to produce several movies up here. Having access to film studio space is certainly helping to increase business.”
The growth and success of the program to date has led to revised goals with the emphasis on helping trainees obtain higher level positions with decision-making authorities that will enable them to learn many facets of production. And as they say in the business, that’s a wrap!
This project is but one example of the types of initiatives funded by FedNor that support the federal Prosperity and Growth Strategy for Northern Ontario (PGSNO). Learn more about PGSNO