Cambridge ready for its spotlight as film industry re-opens in Ontario

Ontario’s film industry is ramping back up as part of the province’s reopening strategy, and people in Cambridge, Ont., say they can’t wait for the lights, cameras and action to return to their city.
Filming of The Handmaid's Tale has taken place in several locations in Cambridge, including the river walk along the Grand River. (George Kraychyk/Hulu)

Ontario's film industry is ramping back up as part of the province's reopening, and people in Cambridge, Ont., say they can't wait for the lights, cameras and action to return to their city.

The municipality has worked hard to attract shoots in recent years, and it has served as a location for scenes in the Handmaid's Tale, Murdoch Mysteries, V Wars and October Faction, among other popular shows.

It's been great for both the local economy and for civic pride, said Devon Hogue, who works closely with the film industry as the city's business information officer.

"When we had V Wars here … they went to the pizza place around the corner and bought 40 pizzas from the independent pizzeria," she said. "That is huge for a small business and a core area."

It's common to have members of a cast and crew pop in for coffee when a show is shooting, said Graham Braun, the co-founder of Monogram Coffee Roasters in downtown Cambridge.

And the economic impact of those shoots lasts long after the crew and the spectators have gone home, he said.

"I know that, for example, different areas get tagged on different blogs and film sites about where locations were ... people can be checking it out months and years after," he said.

Cambridge was on-track for a record-breaking year in 2020, with 13 days of filming booked through the end of May, up from seven in the same period last year, Hogue said. Another 15 were in the works for June.

The previous year, 2019, had already seen a 79 per cent increase in filming days over 2018, she added.

Losing so many shoots when the pandemic hit just added to the misery for local businesses, who were already struggling to adapt in a world of physical distancing, said Brian Kennedy, the executive director of the Downtown Cambridge Business  Improvement Area.

"It's been hard to keep the morale up," he said. "Of course, not seeing any events or filming or anything else happening, you know … it's made it difficult for everyone to have something to really stand behind and get excited about."

Now that Ontario is ramping up its reopening, Hogue said she's already getting calls about more possible film work.

It's too early to make any financial projections, she said, but she's excited about what she calls "the intangible factors."

"It's that real sense of community pride that you see come out," she said. "And we've got so many local people just out watching and seeing what's going on. And the posts on social media – everything is always so positive."


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