The NWT Film Commission brought five high-profile film executives to the North during the last week of March to market the territory as a filming destination.
“A number of these folks are working on projects that they can envision here so we will continue to keep in touch with them,” says Camilla MacEachern, the GNWT’s film commissioner.
The five film executives are owners, presidents or managers of film and film-related companies working on projects starring the likes of Robert Redford, Martin Sheen, Cate Blanchett, Nick Nolte and Tim Roth.
The tour hit Yellowknife, Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk and MacEachern says future tours will hit different parts of the territory.
“It is really tough because we have such a large territory and these individuals are extremely busy so we have to keep the itinerary tight,” she says.
Another familiarization tour is in the works for this summer.
Around the same time as this past tour, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment also helped Air North and Maritime Travel in a familiarization tour for travel agents from southern Canada, touring them from Inuvik to Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk.
“(Air North) have tried to bring in more visitors to our region through their Vancouver legs, with the Asian market, and Whitehorse legs, with the German market,” says Minerva Ward, the Beaufort Delta’s regional tourism officer.
MacEachern says these sorts of familiarization tours are common around the world and often bring results.
“We want to put ourselves on the map as a potential location and show them not only the diversity that we have in locations but infrastructure that we have on the ground, introduce them to as many of our local industry members as possible and showcase the services we have available,” says MacEachern.
“The intent is to create an impression on these people who are quite influential on the world of film, who can tell their adventure stories to others and help entice people north.”
While the NWT has challenges in terms of large-scale gear rentals and higher costs, MacEachern says it offers a diversity of locations and people that is both unique and “underdiscovered.”
“The feedback we received really was incredible,” she says. “Not only were they blown away by our landscape but by the people. They were really enthusiastic about meeting people and the members of our local industry.”
There are about 24 film businesses operating in the NWT today, and statistics from 2016 show the industry creating the equivalent of 88 full-time jobs and contributing close to $9.6 million to the NWT’s gross domestic product.
“The economic multipliers of film production are among the highest of all active industries in the NWT with seven jobs created for every million dollars spent,” according to information provided by MacEachern, adding that tax revenue generated through economic spin-offs from film productions doubles any investment the GNWT makes through program spending.
MacEachern says the NWT Film Commission worked with film producers to design the itinerary, which included trying local food, dogsledding, sliding down pingos, a catered lunch on a houseboat, cultural performances and visits with elders.
“It’s such a different world than what these folks are used to,” says MacEachern.
The commission also worked with an expert to pick the people to bring up.
She says a big highlight, which the executives mentioned in their feedback, was meeting the local film talent.
“It will be interesting to review, even in a year, what comes out of this,” she says.
The funding for these tours is mostly coming from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), which has been supporting the commission.
Earlier this month, CanNor and NWT Tourism announced close to $2 million in funding to support the industry over two years.