This list summarizes the reasons we feel the Greater Victoria region is a poor choice for producers. For more detailed explanations please read on or click on the links above. We especially feel the Greater Victoria Film Commission is an impediment to the growth of the film industry in Victoria. To see our reason why: CLICK HERE
Then why is your production company based in Victoria? Here's our explanation.
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INCREASED PRODUCTION COSTS
Many of the other reasons on our list contribute to why it is more expensive to film in Victoria. First of all, everything about Victoria is generally more expensive. It has long had one of the highest cost-of-living indices in North America. This should come as no great surprise when you live on an Island. The problem is compounded for film producers because Victoria lacks any serious infrastructure for making movies. There are no studios, rental houses and a definite lack of crew. That means you must bring these elements from Vancouver or elsewhere.
If you are a union shoot, a majority of your crew will come from Vancouver. That means the additional cost of per diems, housing and transportation. Courier costs for film and equipment starts to add up fast. Yes, there are additional tax breaks for shooting outside of Vancouver, but the accountants I have talked to say these don't come close to offsetting the increased cost of shooting on the Island. A ballpark figure I have often heard is 20% higher labour costs.
LACK OF PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT & FACILITIES
There are no actual film studios or soundstages in Victoria. For reasons known only to themselves, the Film Commission has refused to support and endorsed a number of private initiatives that would have seen the creation of such facilities. Quite frankly, a major soundstage on the Island is probably not financially viable (at least currently). Those proponents who say build it and they will come - are being naive. For such a project to be successful it would likely need to be subsidized by other (hopefully production-oriented) activities.
Perhaps the infrastructure most lacking in Victoria is production equipment. There are no rental houses on the Island. Your camera, grip, electric and sound packages will have to come from someplace else. Even the most basic expendibles can not be purchased here. Not only does this become inconvenient, the shipping cost makes it all more expensive.
Don't ask me to name them all. Fact remains there are fourteen different jurisdictions within the greater Victoria region. The City of Victoria is but one of those municipalities. Despite what the Film Commission may tell you, there are not uniform permit regulations across the region. There has been an effort to streamline this, but several municipalities have yet to adopt the regulations. On the practical level it very much comes down to the people you deal with. When I made enquiries in the City of Victoria I encountered a bureaucratic rat's nest. They literally could not find the film permit file. Conversely, my conversation with the film co-ordinator in Saanich was very positive and informative. With each of these jurisdictions having their own police, fire, electrical and public works departments, your locations manager will have their work cut out for them.
One of the first criticism I heard about filming in Victoria was from producers in Los Angeles complaining about how they were treated by the hotels and restaurants of Victoria. The common theme was always one of over-pricing and poor service. Face it, tourism has long been the backbone of Victoria's economy, especially from May to September. With hotels full of spend-happy tourists for half the year, hoteliers have little motivation to cut deals with budget-conscious producers.
As for the problems with service - even locals have to suffer these deficiencies. For a city that relies so heavily on tourism it is appalling how many hotels, bars and restaurants fail to provide acceptable standards of service. In fairness, there a a few excellent establishment. Unfortunately, the majority are more likely to serve up an irritating cocktail of apathy and indifference. Get used to ill-prepared meals and drinks that never arrive.
VICTORIA POLICE DEPARTMENT
If your script gets stolen - you're on your own. If you get assaulted in a bar - be careful, they might arrest you instead. Feel you have Charter rights - dream on. Want to complain about a cop - don't waste paper. Need to find a cop - try Monty's about the time the feature stripper goes on stage.
Calling these guys a "news" paper is a oxymoron. The "Times-Communist", eh? I guess if you're looking for someone to recycle your press release into a frontpage featured fluff piece, Michael Reid's your boy. If you prefer accurate, unbiased, useful information you have to look elsewhere. Put it this way, when I worked for a public relations firm in Beverly Hills we placed stories in media across North America. Everything from the Wall Street Journal to the local rag in rural Arkansas. The Times-Colonist was not even in our database. Save some trees - cancel your subscription.
While we're on the subject of media in Victoria - KUDOS to both Monday Magazine and the News Group. I certainly don't agree with all they print, but admire their courage to tackle issues with relative balance. Maybe the T-C will learn that opinion belongs on the op-ed page and not the frontpage.
There's some cool things happening on CFUV 102 FM at the University of Victoria. Check out Guerilla Radio Thursday from 1-2pm. Support these people and give them a listen.
CHEK television news - proof the English language is dying a slow painful death.
There's no way to avoid it - Victoria is on an Island. Even if you are a local producer, you will still be bringing some portion of your crew and equipment from elsewhere. Ignoring for a moment the associated cost of ferries, trucking, couriers, airline flights and accomodation, you had better have really good production and transportation co-ordinators. Although the same is true of any remote location, planning and allocation of resources is more difficult when access is limited by transportation schedules. Consider last winter when over a 140 ferry sailings and many airline flights were cancelled. Think what that could do to a shooting schedule. How about your transpo guys having to make two or three trips a day to the bus depot, HeliJet or airport. It's one of the realities of shooting here.
To begin, there are some VERY good film people on Vancouver Island. I like to consider myself one of those well-trained, experienced professionals. Problem is there are not enough of us. Even a modest feature film will not find a full crew here.
Of course, everyone has to start somewhere - and things are slowly improving in Victoria - but most of us have had to go somewhere else to get professional experience. I went to L.A. Many others go to Vancouver. In my books there is no substitute for on-set experience. Go where you have to to get it.
Personally, having worked in some prestigious acting schools and occasionally hiring crew who have come out of film school, I am usually disappointed. As such, I am critical of spending a lot of money for questionable training. Having said that, some of the students I have worked with at USC, AFI and Ryerson are without a doubt tommorrow's superstars. If you feel you need to learn your filmmaking in an academic setting, then beg, borrow or steal to get yourself into the best school who will accept you.
NO FILM LAB
I think this one is pretty obvious. You'll have to deal with the inconvenience and expense of sending your exposed stock to Vancouver everyday and getting the rushes back a day or two later. I've seen more than one DP freak out after seeing how the colour was timed. Sure, it would be worse if you were shooting in the Arctic, but its one more area were communication can (and does) breakdown.
O.K., is there anyone in Victoria I haven't insulted? If after all this you still want to shoot in Victoria, then more power to you and give me a call. I call them the way I see them and believe in making informed decisions. If you are willing to accept the additional expense and inconvenience inherent in shooting here, then Victoria has some unique locations to offer. Feel free to send me your comments.
Gary Stamford - a producer & gaffer - Creative Leisure Group