New Netflix series being shot in Sudbury highlights busy summer of filming
11 productions so far this year, resulting in $20 million in local spending, city says
After building movie sets in Toronto for two decades, Scott Thom thought he had retired from the film industry for good when he moved back to his hometown of Sudbury in 2007.
"If you'd told me there were going to be three television series running in northern Ontario at the same time, at a decent level of budget, I'd have told you you were a clown," Thom says.
"But that's exactly what's going on this summer."
A carpenter by trade, Thom is currently the construction coordinator for V-Wars, a screen adaptation of a vampire-themed graphic novel.
He's doing all this work in his hometown of Greater Sudbury, where the Netflix series, starring actor Ian Somerhalder, is being filmed this summer.
Thom says he thought he was out of the business, but then contacts from Toronto started pulling him back for jobs on increasingly larger productions.
Over the past five years, he's built up his own team of eight to ten workers and has taken the lead on construction or carpentry for major productions like Indian Horse, Letterkenny and Cardinal.
"I grew up in Onaping and I've remained a small-town guy even though I've had a fairly long urban experience, and shooting in Sudbury satisfies that in me," Thom says. "It is very cool. It's not something I ever expected."
"I'm standing on the street and I'm expecting to see someone I know, unlike Toronto, where it's always an awesome shock when you meet someone you know."
Without naming the project, Sudbury's manager of tourism and culture, Meredith Armstrong, notes the Netflix production "will generate about $15 million of local spending."
"We're actually playing host right now to one of the largest productions northern Ontario has ever seen," Armstrong says.
"The activity really has boosted local spending and job creation."
It's another sign of the ongoing growth of the TV and film industry in the city, and in northern Ontario as a whole.
In 2016 and 2017, there were 38 different productions filmed in Sudbury. They generated $39.1 million in economic activity, according to the city.
Armstrong says 11 filming projects have already contributed over $20 million of local spending in 2018 alone.
Like many others in the industry, she and Thom both credit the production incentives from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), as the key to attracting bigger productions to the north.
Armstrong added the landscape, weather, and growing skill level of workers — from makeup to set design to acting — have also helped make Sudbury an attractive choice as a shooting location.
Other ongoing projects in Sudbury include TFO's Amélie et Compagnie.
The French-language children's show is entering its third season. Armstrong says direct spending from that series alone has surpassed $4 million.
Residents, industry still on honeymoon
Thom admits there have been "some lessons learned from projects doing things the wrong way," but part of the professionalism that's been cultivated by Sudbury crews include how to deal with neighbours.
He says in Toronto, 'burning a location' is commonplace when residents in popular neighbourhoods get fed up with constant filming activity.
However, he notes that people in Sudbury seem to be cut from a slightly different cloth — at least, for now.
"In general terms, the regular person I chat with in Sudbury is very positive about the whole thing."
"They're still excited about it. They're still happy that there's something going on here, and I think a lot of them still can't believe it's real," Thom says. "Just the idea that, 'You're making movies here, with the people I see on E-Talk? Really?'
"That's our livelihood, we need to have places to shoot or else we don't get to do it.," he adds. "Hopefully the honeymoon phase never ends."
Filming for V-Wars in Sudbury is expected to last into the fall.
Netflix hasn't set a release date for the 10-episode vampire-themed drama, which is based on the works of American Jonathan Maberry.