Film commissioner, food channel CEO debate needs of Ottawa's film and TV industry

Trained production crew or a working sound stage everyone can use? What does Ottawa's film and television industry need first?

'There's two sides to every issue and it's a complex issue, trying to make it work,' film commissioner says

Chris Knight, the CEO of Gusto Worldwide Media, and Bruce Harvey, Ottawa's film commissioner, disagree about the priorities for building the city's film and television industry. (CBC)

For Ottawa's film commissioner, the local film and television industry's most urgent need is more trained crew to work on productions.

But for the president of Gusto Worldwide Media — an Ottawa-based food and lifestyle channel that was just acquired by Bell Media — insists the city also needs a working sound stage if the industry is to flourish here.

I'm going to build my own studio, and I'm the only one who gets to use it, which is a shame ...- Chris Knight, president and CEO of Gusto Worldwide Media

Gusto's Chris Knight told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Monday that his company will be producing hundreds more hours of content after it was acquired by Bell, and that he hopes to one day bring the channel to international markets.

That will require a sound stage — ideally one available for rent by all the production companies in town.

"I'm going to build my own studio, and I'm the only one who gets to use it, which is a shame; that there isn't a larger facility being built that would allow ... more business from out of town, which would bring in more crews, which would make it easier for everybody to make more quality television in the nation's capital," Knight told Ottawa Morning host Robyn Bresnahan.

Trained crew most urgent need

But Bruce Harvey, the city's film commissioner at Invest Ottawa, says the biggest need to fill is for more crew; everyone from production assistants and assistant directors to specialists in wardrobe, set design and props.

"We need to build crew for the workflow that's here. ... Getting a sound stage facility certainly has a lot of benefits; for some people it's great, for others it's debatable as to what happens. ... There's two sides to every issue and it's a complex issue, trying to make it work," Harvey said.

Knight took offence.

"I've got to stop you right there. I feel a little like Donald Trump having just gotten blindsided, because I had no idea Bruce was going to say something like that," he said.

"... I'm a little disappointed to hear, let's continue servicing the existing business and let's not go hard after [more business]."

There are a lot of priorities in building an industry ... and I'm not saying that a sound stage wouldn't be good.- Bruce Harvey, Ottawa's film commissioner

Harvey defended himself.

"That's not what I'm saying, Chris. What I'm saying, though, is that the biggest need right now is crew. That is a current need, that's something that's existing today. ... That is by far the priority right now: to try to identify those people in the city that are looking for work, and those people in the city that have work, and pairing them up together," Harvey said.

"There are a lot of priorities in building an industry ... and I'm not saying that a sound stage wouldn't be good. What I'm saying is the priority today is to get those crew and start building the crew database ... make sure that the skill sets that they're graduating with are ones that are usable for the industry."

Knight said a working, rentable sound stage and more crew will help the industry.

"I think the whole crew versus studio thing is a chicken versus the egg. I think you need both, maybe not to service the small industry that's here now but certainly to grow it."

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