How Hamilton's film industry is 'bouncing back' despite COVID-19

Despite a hiatus earlier this year, there have been over 100 productions filmed in Hamilton in 2020. It's meant almost $50 million in economic activity for Hamilton.

Hamilton Film Festival runs until Nov. 15

The City of Hamilton has given out 405 permits to film in the area this year. (Bart Sadowski/Shutterstock)

Despite an intermission prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hamilton's film sector is rebounding and has over 100 productions filming in the city this year.

Kim Adrovez, senior project manager at the city's film office, said the industry has "bounced back quickly" since filming resumed on July 6. 

"We're seeing a real surge in demand," she said. "We've gratefully seen all the projects that went on hiatus come back and then a whole bunch of projects that had been planning to work in Hamilton over the summer came as well and got caught up on their production schedule." 

At the start of November last year, the city had doled out 686 permits. 

In spite of the interruption, Adrovez said, permits are already at 405. They stood at just 26 near the beginning of August. 

There were 141 total projects filmed in the city in 2019, including second seasons of The BoysThe Umbrella Academy, and Titans.

So far this year, there have been 104. 

Production companies are already scouting areas in the city to arrange plans for filming in the new year, said Adrovez, meaning there will be opportunities for the over 9,000 people in Hamilton who work in the industry. 

"It's not usually being planned this far in advance, but I think productions are very keenly aware of how attractive Hamilton is as a jurisdiction, and they want to get in there and lock it down ahead of everybody else," she said. 

Part of the reason she thinks the industry is rebounding in Hamilton, aside from playing catch up on schedules, is because production teams see Ontario as a "safer" location to shoot during the pandemic as compared to alternatives like New York and Los Angeles. 

Alternative to Toronto

The film industry has resulted in almost $50 million of economic activity in the city compared to last year's $60 million, said Androvez. 

She said production companies encourage workers to purchase gift cards and use venues, like banquet halls, that aren't allowed to operate under their normal conditions because of the provincial restrictions in place to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

If appearing on camera, venues will be offered compensation. Androvez also confirmed that a production company that was filming downtown had made a donation to a local charity. 

Nathan Fleet chairs Lights Camera Hamilton, which acts as a liaison for those looking for crew members. He said he's noticed a "big increase" in people reaching out. 

The industry "seems like it's booming," he said, and not just because of available tax credits.

Producers have told him that the ease of getting around, from a factory one minute to a conservation area the next, is an attractive prospect, especially when compared to "overcrowded" Toronto. 

It means cast and crew members that people normally skip over once the credits start rolling are eating at local restaurants, using film studios, and buying fabric or building material in the city, he said. 

24 Hamilton films in festival

Fleet is also the executive director of Hamilton Film Festival, which is in its 15th year. It's showing about 100 movies at The Westdale, Playhouse Cinema, and Starlite Drive-In. Movies can also be seen on Cable 14. 

Seventy of the movies are Canadian films, and 24 were either shot in Hamilton or made by Hamiltonian filmmakers. 

When the pandemic started, he said, everyone turned to entertainment, and artists were "donating" their work to the world for free. 

"Artists, whenever things get shut down, or they feel like they can't do it, they still do it," he said. "We need to produce art for some reason. It's just in us." 

So, it's important, he said, that people support local artists. 

"As they are giving of their art, I think the audiences should be equally giving when they receive that art." 

The festival runs until Nov. 15. 

If anyone is looking to film in the city, they should contact Hamilton's film office. 


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