Film industry booming in Ridge again

A crew on the set of a film outside the Greg Moore Youth Centre. - The News/files
A crew on the set of a film outside the Greg Moore Youth Centre.
— image credit: The News/files

A year and a half ago, Maple Ridge was plastered with posters and stickers to #SaveBCfilm. There were protests and rallies warning about the industry’s impending demise.

This week, Marg Johnson is juggling four different production teams, including one shooting right in her office.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said Johnson, the district’s film production liaison.

Statistics show Maple Ridge saw a 25 per cent increase in film productions for the first six months of 2014 over the same period last year.

Johnson said it looks like the district is going to more than triple the revenue from film fees, permits, licences in that period.

“I’m getting bigger features coming in because they’ve heard that we’re a very film-friendly town,” said Johnson.

In the past year, Zooey Deschanel, Ellen Page, Dick Van Dyke, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olson and Gary Oldman have shot films locally.

Big features who’ve filmed in Maple Ridge include World of Warcraft, Damaged Formula M, The Driftless Area and Into the Forest.

The lower Canadian dollar is contributing to the boom, but Johnson believes productions are heading to Maple Ridge for other reasons, as well.

“They are getting to know Maple Ridge now,” she said.

“They love the 224th Street area. They’ve got a good rapport with the businesses and know what to expect.”

Besides being an important source of revenue for the district, the economic spin-offs from the film industry continue to increase.

Johnson said the district estimates $10,000 per day is injected into the community when a film is in town via hotel stays, food, business rentals and other services.

“That figure is quite dated now and could conceivably be much higher,” said Johnson, who is developing a “wrap survey” to figure out exactly how much spin-off each production generates.

Several production companies also donate to charities while they are in town.

Rico Mielnicki, an in-house location manager for Light House Productions, often chooses Maple Ridge as a location for his shoots.

“You get a wide variety of looks all in one spot,” says Mielnicki, explaining a production can film everything from an inner city scene to lush wilderness in the span of a day while in Maple Ridge.

“You are getting bigger shows because they are realizing they get a better bang for their buck out here.”

Mielnicki, who is currently filming a movie in Hammond, also credits the district’s production liaison for helping to boost business.

“They have a very fast system of getting us to film, compared to all the cities,” he adds.

The City of Pitt Meadows is also seeing an increase in film productions.

As of June 30, Pitt Meadows processed 31 film permits, as compared to nine permits in the same period last year.

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