Nfld. & Labrador

Hello, Hollywood East: Film and TV productions booming in N.L.

As worldwide demand increases for fresh movies and shows to watch, more productions are choosing to film in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Increased TV and film production in N.L. means millions in revenue and jobs

A crew films the TV show Hudson & Rex on Fleming Street in St. John's. The show is in its fourth season. (Paula Gale/CBC)

"We have Rex and Charlie walking up to confront the bad guys…"

The director of Hudson & Rex describes the next shot while filming on location in the Georgetown neighbourhood of St. John's in September. There's a fleet of white trailers, cameras set up on the sidewalk and dozens of people wearing headsets.

From 150 to 200 people a day are working on the show's fourth season, says producer Paul Pope.

"They're well-paying jobs … and more and more people are getting into it," said Pope.

Trailers for the cast of Hudson & Rex are seen on location in St. John's. Scenes such as this are becoming more common in N.L. (Paula Gale/CBC)

As worldwide demand increases for fresh movies and shows to watch, more productions are choosing to film in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

"There's a big boom in Canada and we're kind of part of the boom," said Pope. "It's a great place to film. People like the locations, love being here. It takes a while to build an industry — and you know we're not done yet."

Pope is one of the people who has been involved in developing the industry in N.L. over the past few decades.

"I remember when we celebrated our first year of doing half a million dollars worth of production. And then in the '90s we got to a million," he said.

Big money

Last year, the industry brought in more than $50 million, and that's expected to double this fiscal year, says Dorian Rowe, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, which helps to provide a tax credit and financial support to the industry.

"We don't have the final numbers yet … but we're looking at upwards of $80 to $100 million," said Rowe.

Dorian Rowe, executive director and film commissioner of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, says they expect at least $80 million of production in the province this fiscal year. (John Pike/CBC)

Walt Disney Pictures was in the province shooting scenes for Peter Pan & Wendy for 11 days in August, with an estimated expenditure of $9 million.

CBC's Son of a Critch just wrapped filming, as did the feature film Sweetland, based on Michael Crummey's novel. Take the Shot Productions and Blue Ice Pictures filmed the show SurrealEstate in 2020 and are filming another sci-fi show, called Astrid and Lilly Save the World. HGTV's Rock Solid Builds is still in production, along with numerous smaller documentary projects, TV shows and films. 

With so many productions happening, there have been challenges to find enough equipment and people to do the work. But Rowe said it's also encouraging.

"The industry has always shown that it's very good at training on-the-job, and attracting people in," he said. 

Cast and crew work on the set of the new CBC comedy series Son of a Critch. The show, based on the childhood of Newfoundland comedian-actor Mark Critch, premieres in 2022. (Ted Blades/CBC)

Rowe said jobs in film and television are good for N.L.'s economy as a whole.

"Clearly, it helps to retain young people. These are people who are staying here and buying cars, buying houses, paying taxes … having children," said Rowe.

Filmmaker Latonia Hartery says the current boom in film and TV production in N.L. has been years in the making. She'd like to see more production happening outside the Avalon Peninsula, with more diversity in the industry. (Submitted by Latonia Hartery/Glen Whiffen)

Catch-22 

Latonia Hartery is a writer, director and producer (Nalujuk Night, The Death of Winter, Sadie) from the south coast of Newfoundland. For independent producers, the current boom is a catch-22, said Hartery.

"The call to have more crew is just the push for more people to enter the industry and get trained and move forward that way," she said.

"If you're going to have a production happening at the time that three TV shows and massive productions are going on, then you just need to be prepared like you haven't been prepared before … renting those cars early, booking everything in advance."

Hartery said the industry is on the right track, but she'd like to see more productions happening outside the Avalon Peninsula, and more diversity in the people hired to work both in front of and behind the camera.

But working on a film or TV crew is not for everyone, said Pope.

"It's like the travelling circus with a bit more money … 14-hour days are common. We don't have regular work hours," said Pope. "So the first step is to figure out if this is a lifestyle for you."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paula Gale

Host-producer

Paula Gale is the host and producer of Weekend AM on CBC Radio One, based in St. John's. She's been a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador for more than 20 years. Her email is paula.gale@cbc.ca

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