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Recent wildfires has made Kamloops an ideal location for filming post-apocalyptic scenes: film commissioner

The smoke and fires may deter some of the film industry from seeking out Kamloops filming locations, but the ‘post-apocalyptic’ setting has also brought along some new clientele.

Victoria Weller, film commissioner with the Thompson-Nicola Film Commission (TNFC), says despite the last few summers being quite smoky, the local film industry certainly hasn’t seen a decline as a result.

“It has been good because it serves as a great post-apocalyptic setting, especially with the burnt forests, it has been good for some shows,” Weller says. “It depends on what’s filming at the time.”

Weller noted popular televisions series including The 100, The Colony, and even Man In the High Castle, were all filmed in the Kamloops area because of the post-apocalyptic vibe the fire season has created.

The smoky summers haven’t been ideal in all areas however, as Weller noted it's harder to film when the fire season is in full swing.

She explains the smoke throws off the white balance for filming crews, for instance.

Weller says even local film and production crews have felt an impact from the extended fire seasons, noting business’ do not want smoky skies in their advertising shots.

This can be a hardship on local filming companies such as Mastermind Studios, resulting in their filming schedule being thrown off.

Luckily, most filming in the Kamloops region takes place in the shoulder seasons, Weller says, explaining the fires only cause bigger problems when they run into the Fall season.

“Post-fire locations are good for the local film industry, but during the fire it is not so good," Weller tells KamloopsMatters. "Summer isn’t necessarily our best time to film because we need to compete for rooms with local tourism and rates go up. The shoulder season is when we do our best. Most are attracted to the desert look we offer, and in June it is still fairly green and tourism is at a high. The browns and gold colours in fall are more popular.”

In the upcoming months both the television show Van Helsing and Canadian independent film entitled Sisters of Sorrow will be filming in the Kamloops area, along with others Weller is not authorized to release information on at this time.

“What attracts them to our area is what you cannot get in Vancouver Island,” she says. “The desert, the small towns, the landscapes and the town itself in terms of environment and infrastructure, are all things that attract film crews to Kamloops.”

Weller explains it also depends on the individual needs of each film; for instance, Clearwater has a bridge that can be shut down, which is ideal for some movie sets.

“Our landscapes and the variety we offer such as snow-capped mountains at Sun Peaks, deserts and grasslands,” she says. Weller noted our wide range of landscapes means a film can find almost everything they want for a particular script in one area.

Red Snow 003The TNFC are expecting the local film industry to see a boom over the next few years, especially with the rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime producing their own content.(via TNFC)
Weller says she is expecting the film industry within Kamloops to expand dramatically in the coming years.

“In a nutshell, the trend is the expansion of streamers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney has a new streaming platform, CBC Dream, [among others] are expanding their platforms and are needing more content. “In terms of getting content, that is a huge explosion and a big opportunity,” Weller says. “One of the things being felt worldwide as a result of this, is a lack of a trained crew,” she explains.

In an article last year, Mastermind Studios CEO Peter Cameron-Inglis told Kamloops Matters "What the film industry needs are facilities and crew. Those are the two things that have long held the film industry back from coming to the Interior."

“The UK has even been drawing on military to use for their trained crew,” Weller says; with the film industry becoming as big as forestry, there is a major opportunity for those with skills that can transfer over.

“From a Kamloops perspective, the TNFC and Mastermind Studios has offered a number of training opportunities and it's expanding. The lower mainland has been very busy as well.”

Weller noted the pay for these types of positions is very good and the need stretches far past lighting and videographers, but also into electricians and carpenters as well. 

“We have hired MNP to do a strategic plan looking at the film industry and where we should put our resources,” Weller says.

“Do we put our funding in workforce development or put our efforts into getting a studio built, or do we stay at the status quo.”

Weller says most who come to Kamloops now, film their scenes and leave, but they're looking into ways to get them to stay long-term and film full series in the area.

“It is about what is good for our community, but we also look at it from an economic development lens,” she says.