EDMONTON — How can Edmonton better position itself to entice film and television producers to do work in the city? That’s the question being asked by local film producers and city council alike.
“I believe that we have some of the most dedicated, talented cast and crew in this city and they just need some sort of bigger opportunity,” Wesley Sellick, owner of Sing and Dance Productions, said.
Sellick grew up in Edmonton but left the city at 17 to pursue bigger opportunities elsewhere. But the actor and producer, who has played roles in a number of shows including Beyond Borders, Legends and State of Affairs, has always seen huge potential for the industry in Edmonton.
Sellick’s company has offices in Edmonton, Los Angeles and Las Vegas and will soon open another in Miami. He currently has two major film projects underway, both of which will be either entirely or partially shot in Alberta’s capital city.
“I was really passionate about trying to bring some of my experiences and what I’ve learned back to my home,” Sellick said.
One of the producer’s latest productions, called My Family Movie, will be shot in the city, he said.
“My Family Movie takes place start to finish in Boston and we’re shooting entirely in Edmonton,” he said.
Edmonton can serve as a suitable stand-in for your typical North American big city, Sellick said, while the low Canadian dollar should attract more productions.
“This is gorgeous,” he said, pointing to the city skyline. “This is a character itself.”
“My Family Movie would cost me $17 million to shoot in Los Angeles. It would cost $12.5 million to shoot in Georgia,” Sellick said. The cost to shoot in Edmonton: $7 million, according to Sellick.
“Given the fact we have a 70-cent dollar, we’re very attractive to U.S. runaway films,” Gilbert Allan, a local freelance writer, producer and director added.
Edmonton has been without a film commissioner for over a year; it’s a role designed to promote locally-produced films. The city is looking to hire the position in the next few months, and council hopes more can be done with the role.
“The input we were receiving was to broaden out a little bit and look at the position as not just film, but all sorts of other related sort of media production and creation,” city councillor Scott McKeen said. “So we’d be everything from gaming, to movie post-production to Netflix content, all those sorts of things.”
Allan agrees. He said it’ll take more than just a warm body in the seat to give the city’s industry a boost.
“We also need to have somebody that is boots on the ground in the American southwest. You need to have somebody in Los Angeles and in Las Vegas that is talking to those people on a daily basis,” Allan said. “[If] we’re out of sight, we’re out of mind.”
McKeen said the combination of experienced personnel and the new crop of skilled graduates from the region’s and province’s schools – like NAIT and the University of Alberta – are powerful draws to attract projects from U.S. and foreign producers.
“I think the question is, and what we’re going to struggle with as we figure this out is, what is a niche that Edmonton could thrive within?” McKeen questioned.
The role of the new film commissioner was discussed at a city committee meeting earlier this month. After speaking to several members of the local film industry, the city decided it will consult with key stakeholders like the TV and film industry, the Edmonton Arts Council and Edmonton Economic Development Corporation to gather more input about the role of the commissioner’s office.
“Why not Edmonton?” Allan said. “We’ve got the talent base here. We’ve got really skilled people here.”
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