Charging more for Hamilton film permits - common sense, or scaring off filmmakers?

City councillors want to look at how much it costs the city to accommodate filmmakers. But Hamilton's head of economic development says hiking fees puts the city at risk of losing millions.

Hiking fees puts the city at risk of losing millions, says Hamilton's head of economic development

Film director Guillermo Del Toro, shown in 2013, filmed The Shape of Water in Hamilton this year. His tweets talking up the city made national news. (Itsuo Inouye/AP Photo)

Should Hamilton boost the amount it charges filmmakers to use its streets and locations? Or will doing so scare them away?

That was the debate among city councillors on Wednesday after hearing about Hamilton's rousing success with filmmakers.

It is a risky move.- Jason Thorne, general manager of economic development

One hundred and four productions used Hamilton from January to September this year, filming in 327 locations, the general issues committee heard. The productions brought in $6,260,181 in economic benefits to the city.

That's up from 96 productions in all of 2015, which amounted to $8,449,440 in economic benefits. Cast and crew for Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water alone used 600 local hotel rooms this year.

But that generated only $14,675 in permit revenue this year, hardly enough to cover the 1.5 city staff it takes to manage the permits. So city councillors want to see exactly what filming costs the city.

Jason Thorne, the city's general manager of economic development, warned against going too far into number crunching. Hiking permit fees could chill whatever success the city is having.

The city is already the only in Ontario to charge a permit location fee, which currently costs $56.50. Increase the price and you'll turn off film crews, Thorne said.

"It is a risky move," he said. "It is a price sensitive market."

"It is sensitive to those permit prices. So a doubling or tripling of the fee to generate $20,000 or $30,000 could have an impact, and would have an impact in terms of the productions we have here."

Not everyone thought so. Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor, said film crews are choosing Hamilton because of provincial tax credits, the low dollar and the fact that the city can double as Chicago, Detroit or New York City.

"It's the old stock we have," he said. And once the dollar flips, the film crews will disappear.

City staff will come back with what it actually costs the city to accommodate film crews. It's just a number, some said. It can't hurt to know it.

Here are some other numbers to illustrate the state of filming in Hamilton:


The number of film productions in Hamilton from January to September. That's up from last year, when there were 96 for the whole year. In 2013, there were 75.


The number of film productions that used Ward 2 — which includes downtown — in 2015. Ward 2 was by far the most popular ward for filming that year. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Ward 1: 75.
  • 2: 148.
  • 3: 106.
  • 4: 21.
  • 5: 16.
  • 6: 14.
  • 7: 13.
  • 8: 11.
  • 9: 7.
  • 10: 6.
  • 11: 18.
  • 12: 43.
  • 13: 52.
  • 14: 37.
  • 15: 13.


The amount of direct spending that happened in Hamilton last year as a result of filming. That includes parking fees, hotels, rental fees, spending at local businesses, etc. as of September this year, that number was $6,260,181.


The direct spinoff created by the Vin Diesel movie xXx: Return of Xander Cage, which filmed here earlier this year.


The number of hotel rooms used by the cast and crew of Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water this year. Del Toro also tweeted his love of Hamilton's cuisine and book stores, and filmed Crimson Peak here two years ago.


The number of days of filming that happened in Hamilton from January to September this year.


Number of complaints the city received in 2015 around filming. The most common complaints were around parking, incivility (example: smoking on sidewalks, idling cars), loss of business, no notice it would take place, nighttime filming and "film fatigue."


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