Ontario woos Hollywood with perfect settings for holiday romance

Film production companies have fallen for Ontario, especially when it comes to shooting romance movies for the holidays.

The province had a banner year in 2021 – with some 400 domestic and foreign feature films, TV movies and series productions creating 48,000 jobs here – and is on track for another strong year in 2022, the film commissioner said. of the province.

“Things are looking very good for the industry right now,” said Commissioner Justin Cutler of Ontario Creates, noting that 2021 contributed $2.88 billion in direct spending to the province.

« Ontario offers the full package for producers who want to film here, » Cutler said. « We have world-class infrastructure, a wide range of locations, with excellent financial incentives and world-class talent. »

In particular, the province has benefited from growing demand for holiday-related TV/streaming movies, with places like Ottawa seeing a record 16 such productions this year – up from 12 in 2021 and just seven in 2019 – in addition to 30 non-holiday movies and TV series.

The nation’s capital “can have a European or American feel…or you can be very quickly in a rural setting,” said Sandrine Pechels de Saint Sardos, film commissioner for the Ottawa Film Board. “Producers really understand the friendliness and ease of getting around Ottawa.

Holiday movies « are a Christmas wave that audiences are very excited to ride, » she added. « The popularity of this genre continues to grow. »

The festive movies coming out of Ottawa this year — including ‘Mistletoe Time Machine,’ ‘Reindeer Games Homecoming’ and ‘All I Didn’t Want for Christmas’ — are already showing.

“Hallmark movies and Christmas movies are big business for Ontario,” Cutler said. “They have found a home in communities like Ottawa, North Bay, Sudbury and many more across the province. I think the appeal is that we have such great municipal cinema offices, vendors and suppliers that can help with production in any community.

While some of the winter films are shot in warm weather, « we also have guaranteed snowfall in some communities which really helps the Christmas films establish the look they’re going for, » he said.

A Valentine’s Day-themed movie is being shot in Almonte, another popular location near Ottawa for holiday movies, given that it has an agricultural setting – including a fruit farm. Christmas trees – as well as other rural sites as well as main streets and old fashioned heritage houses.

« Locally, Mississippi Mills has been dubbed ‘Hollywood of the North’ for the number of movies that have been shot in our small community over the past few years, » Mayor Christa Lowry said in a statement to The Star. « Not everyone sees their hometown on the big screen and it certainly makes residents proud to know that we are a sought-after location. »

Each film « can inject up to $100,000 into our local economy through venue rentals, local spending and more, » Lowry said. “Particularly on COVID, this has been a real boost for local businesses – economic development on another scale.”

Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Neil Lumsden said, “We are so proud that our province has become one of the largest production centers in North America.

Lumsden noted that in 2021, “Ontario recorded its highest production levels yet. Nearly 400 productions across the province brought in close to $3 billion in expenditures. These numbers represent more than 48,000 full-time and spin-off jobs, a 38% increase from 2020. These numbers are a testament to Ontario’s impressive financial incentive package, continued expansion of space studio space, diverse talent pool and an unparalleled range of film-friendly locations.

But the action isn’t just in the big cities. Northern Ontario is the scene of several productions — in North Bay, Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie — including shows like “Shoresy” and “Letterkenny,” which are filmed in Sudbury.

Patrick O’Hearn, executive director of the Cinefest Sudbury International Film Festival and associate executive director of Cultural Industries Ontario North, said the sector « has really taken off in the last 10 to 15 years. »

What makes the area unique, O’Hearn said, is « it offers these different landscapes, depending on what area you’re looking to photograph in – Sudbury obviously has 300 lakes within its city limits, but it has also superb industrial looks and a beautiful downtown area.

For film crews, there is the ease of movement with little traffic which can make filming in multiple locations efficient.

For holiday movies, « it’s interesting because everyone does fake snow a little differently, » O’Hearn said. “It’s great to see how well the productions are adapting and adapting. As a resident of Northern Ontario, one of the most interesting things—and sometimes shocking—is that if you see Christmas decorations, the whole downtown area where they’re spinning is decorated in mid-July. You go out and you’re like, ‘Well, where am I right now?’ It’s really cool, and the community loves it.

Timmins, with its early, cold winter, is also the setting for several winter-themed movies, he added.

Television and film productions are a boon to local businesses and restaurants, as well as employment. In North Bay, the local Canadore College trains students for production work, which has created a strong base of local talent.

“We see TV series, full productions, we see Hallmark (holiday movies) — you name it, we see it,” said North Bay Mayor Peter Chirico.

« It’s been really good for North Bay’s economy, especially during the pandemic, » he added. The film industry resumed a few months after the initial lockdown in March 2020.

« The film industry saved our hospitality industry – our hotels, our caterers, our restaurants – because they were one of the first industries to come up with protocols to be able to film during the pandemic. »

Residents enjoy seeing their city on the big screen, he added, and teams often give back to local charities.

In southern Ontario, film production has picked up in areas like Hamilton, where the city saw an increase of around 50% between 2017 and 2018, and a 21% increase this year over the year. last, said Kim Adrovez, the city’s project manager. cinema director.

« We see a lot of interest in our downtown because there are so many different types of architecture, » she said. “We have downtown areas that look like Midwestern cities, we have areas that look like Rust Belt cities, we have areas that double up really well for New York or Washington, D.C.”

Also, Hamilton has “a big stretch of road that looks a bit like Brooklyn, and then we have these buildings from all different time periods. We have modern architecture, of course, but we still have a lot of buildings from the 60s and 70s,” as well as Victorian houses in residential areas, she said. There are also conservation areas “so we have a wide variety of stocks that people can choose from. It’s easy to achieve lots of different looks in one day.

A « big chunk » of activity in Hamilton has been TV movies, she added.

“We get a lot of Christmas and romance movies – they’re very popular, especially during the holidays. We always put together a list of all the movies filmed here, where and where they will be shown, because there is so much interest.

A number of series have also filmed episodes in Hamilton, including ‘Umbrella Academy’, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘Murdoch Mysteries’ as well as the sitcoms ‘Children Ruin Everything’ and ‘Workin’ Moms’.

She said tax credits and incentives for domestic producers working outside the GTA have helped boost the industry.

In Ottawa, Film Commissioner Sandrine Pechels of Saint Sardos said productions contributed $57 million to local economic activity in 2022, but if you include in-house productions and animations, that rises to $130 million. .

In Toronto, the three University of Toronto campuses are popular locations for filming, including episodes of « The Handmaid’s Tale, » as well as « Star Trek: Discovery. »


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