Movie industry picking up in Maple Ridge

Lower Canadian dollar having effect, local studio busy

Signs of the movie business are all around Maple Ridge.

It’s impossible to miss the white movie trucks around town, which seems like the industry is back to booming, but the number of film shoots so far in Maple Ridge is behind last year.

According to the City of Maple Ridge’s film production liaison, Marg Johnson, the number of films shot here the first six months of this year is down by seven compared to the first half of 2014.

Only 33 films have been shot in Maple Ridge the first half of this year, compared to 44 the year before.

The industry has rebounded after a downturn in 2013, when those in the industry blamed the loss of the Harmonized Sales Tax and more tax credits in Ontario for the downturn.

At the time, a group called for Save B.C. Film, called for more tax credits to stem job losses.

But Johnson said ups and downs are the nature of the business.

“This summer is proving to be very busy though – lots of scouting for locations, and I currently have six productions on the go,” Johnson said.

For instance, the Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story is currently shooting at a number of locations, including The Ridge Studio, Haney Place Mall and the Chameleon Café on 224th Street.

The lower numbers accord with Creative B.C. stats, which say that the total of $1.44 billion spent in 2013/14 on B.C.-made films and TV – is lower than the previous year.

That total was $1.47 billion.

Both totals though are still above the $1.2 billion spent in 2012.

John Wittmayer, who opened The Ridge Studio on 224th Street, in the former Haney Bingo Plex, in January, said he’s been busy from the start.

“The obvious culprits are the 78-cent dollar,” and the extra six cents tax credit on labour costs for movies shot east of 200th Street.

In the first half year of operating, six movies have been shot out of the 23,000-sq.-ft. building, where there are pre-made, stand-alone police station, crime lab and hospital scene sets.

“Hospital sets here are difficult to find and to get permission to film in.”

Wittmayer is leasing the whole building and is even using the old lunch counter-diner as another set.

In addition to providing a convenient shooting space, the studio can serve as a home base for companies as they move to different spots for on-location filming.

“We’ve marketed ourselves well enough so that we’re now on the map.”

Wittmayer says he could upgrade soundproofing of the building, although the concrete walls are fairly quiet, and he may decorate the west exterior wall of the building so it represents an inner-city alley way.

Wittmayer says the pace of filming has dramatically picked up this summer, saying he gets a few calls a week from companies looking for studio space.

Overall, it’s a booming time in the business, to listen to Wittmayer.

“It’s dramatically picked up. It’s very busy.”

He said the Directors Guild of Canada is constantly looking for location managers.

As the forms of media multiply, the demand for content, screen plays and scripts, is constant.

“There’s a huge need for content.”

More television channels, and web media create more demands for content. The U.S. companies UPtv, Lifetime TV and Movies, and Hallmark Channel are constantly film here, he added.

“That being the case, I don’t see our industry slowing down at all.”

 

•So far this year, there have been 123 shooting days in Maple Ridge. Each day of shooting is estimated to bring in $10,000 daily to the area.

• For the same period last year, there had been 177 shooting days, in 2013, for the same period, 126 shooting days.

 

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