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OUTLOOK: Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows film industry slowly restarts

Industry already starting to pick up following American strike resolutions, but may take some time
A production called The Painter was filmed at Mission Trailhead in Maple Ridge on Dec. 12, 2022. (City of Maple Ridge/Special to The News)

After being hit hard by strikes, the film industry is expected to make a comeback in both the cities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

By Saturday, Sept. 30, the end of the third quarter, there were 57 productions shot in Maple Ridge, with 162 permits going out, 202 shoot days, and 113 prep and wrap days – which has had an economic impact of more than $4 million locally.

Film coordinator with the city, Draeven McGowan, said the year started strong with record economic impacts and revenues. But the industry was hit the hardest in the third quarter, with only 18 productions, as the Writers Guild of America, (WGA), representing 11,500 screenwriters in the United States hit the picket lines in May in a labour dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers joined by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, (SAG- AFTRA), in July.

“The two strikes effectively shut down the film industry,” explained McGowan.

Most of what was filmed in the third quarter were independent projects, commercials, and a couple of Canadian television series, he noted.

This compared to 47 productions which were filmed in the city during the same period last year.

Even the filming of what are termed Movies of the Week, (MOW), were impacted.

“Christmas did not come to Maple Ridge in the summer this year like usual,” said McGowan about the influx of Hallmark movie productions which, in years past, have made snow and Christmas trees a part of the summer setting in Maple Ridge.

Usually, by this time of the year, there would have been around 47 MOWs, filmed in the city. This year there have only been 29 so far – a number, said McGowan, that is higher than you would expect given the circumstances.

“When the WGA was on strike there was an abundance of Hallmark scripts in the June time frame. Therefore, they filmed the backlog of scripts while the disputes were ongoing. Once the scripts ran out and the actors went on strike, much of the MOWs in Maple Ridge stopped except for a few,” explained McGowan.

However, instead of lamenting the loss of monetary injection into the economy, the city took action by hosting a temporary film job fair which about 400 film industry workers and dozens of employers attended.

McGowan said feedback was positive with dozens of film workers from Maple Ridge all the way to the District of North Vancouver, gaining temporary employment while the strikes continued.

“The creative industries require creative solutions and we are proud to have been a part of one,” said Draeven.

The City of Pitt Meadows also saw a loss of revenue due to the strikes this year.

Communications manager Carolyn Baldridge noted that in previous years the city has seen an average of 75 permits from January until mid-November.

This year, she said, there have only been 38 permits.

Now that the strikes have ended – with the WGA negotiating a settlement at the end of September and the actors union coming to a resolution at the beginning of November – Baldridge is expecting a busy winter.

“When the writers’ strike concluded, the city has had three applications – to film a feature film, movie of the week and a commercial,” noted Baldridge, adding that since the end of the actors’ strike there have been “quite a few” productions reaching out to the city to clear locations. However, she said, there have been no applications just yet.

McGowan is also expecting the industry to pick up where it left off. But, he said, it may take some time.

“It is a massive logistical endeavour to start this multi-billion-dollar industry again right before the holiday season,” he said.

“It is important to remember that we have a very successful film industry here in B.C. and Maple Ridge is a big part of it. According to a new report sent my way, we (Maple Ridge) are ranked fourth in location filming in all of BC – and, yes, Drake and Lil Yachty were one of them.”

A production called The Painter was filmed at Mission Trailhead in Maple Ridge on Dec. 12, 2022. (City of Maple Ridge/Special to The News)

Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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