The Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission wants Sidney to increase its annual contribution by a factor of 10, to $5,000.
The ask appears in a letter from film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert to Sidney councillors, which will review the request at its upcoming regular meeting Monday.
Gilbert said the commission faces a combination of higher workload and uncertain finances in framing the demand.
“Last year, after an extraordinary amount of work we brought over ($50 million) in direct spend into the CRD,” she said. “As a result, our workload has increased exponentially and we do not expect it will ease in the future.”
Gilbert said that running a not-for-profit organization responsible for this amount of economic growth on a budget of under $200,000 represents a huge challenge, one compounded by current circumstances.
“The challenge is even more difficult because we are unsure of our funding until halfway through the calendar year,” she said. “This makes it very difficult to make decisions around any essential expenditure outside of core operations. Expenditures like marketing which are essential to the continued growth of this industry.”
Gilbert said the requested increase would put Sidney more in line with other jurisdictions of its size. She added later that the commission is asking all municipalities minus the top three contributors, the City of Victoria ($45,000), the District of Saanich ($39,000) and the District of Oak Bay ($10,000) for additional contributions. “We are not asking those municipalities for anything more, except we are asking Oak Bay to put it as a line item and Saanich to put it as a line item.”
Gilbert said the commission has been asking for $5,000 since 2016. “We are asking Langford to go $25,000 from $5,000. We need community support and community partnership in order to bring this kind of economic development to Victoria. We cannot do this alone.”
The initial letter does not say how the commission calculated the figure of $50 million, nor does it say how much of the total was spent in Sidney specifically or the Saanich Peninsula generally. But the letter argues that the money would be a good investment, pointing to the success of Netflix’s Maid, which filmed in Sidney among other Greater Victoria locations last year.
“We have seen a big increase in the numbers of jobs created over the last 18 months with streaming series like Maid hiring hundreds of local crew and hundreds more local background,” she said. “We know that many wonderful filming locations in Sidney were used by Maid and other films over the last two years.”
Noting Maid’s status as the second most-watched series on Netflix, Gilbert said landing shows of this calibre can result in film tourism. “With your help, we can land more of these jobs creating economic drivers for our region,” she said.
Gilbert later said that the commission calculates the figure in two ways. “Whenever possible we receive those numbers directly from the production company,” she said. “(When) that is not possible we use a chart produced by the Association of Film Commissioners International. Gilbert said she always uses the low-end estimates when using this chart. “My direct spend estimates are always on the low side,” she said. “Direct spend is only money that the producers spend locally (like local wages, location fees, municipal filming permits and parking fees, hotel nights, supplies like gas, building supplies, food, set decorations and rentals like tents, chairs, mats, lifts, heaters).”
Staff recommends council forward the request to 2022 budget deliberations.
Randy Humble, Sidney’s chief administrative officer, later told Black Press that the film commission received $2,500 from the municipality — $500 through its annual contribution plus $2,000 in one-time granting funding out of Sidney’s safe restart grant.
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