He won’t say who it is, what it is or where exactly they will be filming, but Okanagan Film Commissioner Jon Summerland says a major production is coming to the South Okanagan in May.
“It’s quite large. I can’t get into too much, but I’ll tell you that the size of it, it has 275 extras. That’s just the extras, so that’s pretty amazing,” says Summerland. “They’re still going through logistics, because where do you put 275 extras and 200 and whatever amount of crew in this small town where they want to shoot.”
Productions across the region are expected to kick into high gear in the spring after a somewhat slow start to 2023.
“2023 started off a little slower. We’re about three weeks behind, but that’s everybody across the board, not just the Okanagan. It’s the world. But we have multiple products now that are going.”
Summerland says those include Hallmark and Lifetime romantic features, which have become a staple in the Okanagan.
The pandemic was actually a boon for the local industry, with a lot of companies deciding to shoot here. That has led to the establishment of new local businesses to meet the needs of the growing number of productions.
A new report shows that between 2014 and 2020, the Okanagan motion picture industry’s total GDP saw a compounded annual growth rate of 6%. That’s more than triple the growth in the Lower Mainland over the same time period.
“They came up with how much economic impact was done in the film industry here, film and animation. And it was, 2020 was $129 million. I thought my numbers were high,” He calls that pretty spectacular.
“For the bang for the buck, we are getting quite a bit of money put into our economy here in the Okanagan.”
Summerland says in the past few years his job has changed. He doesn’t have to drive people around trying to sell the region to them, because they’ve already shot here and know what it has to offer.
Still, he can’t sit back and be complacent.
“We have to continue to do a good job. But, no matter what, we are going to be easier and more cost-efficient for them to shoot here. Plus, they’ve invested in here,” says Summerland.
He points out that all the pieces are in place here to make an independent film, to make a low-budget feature and to make Hallmark movies.
Now the hope is that the big production coming to the South Okanagan in May will crack the door open for major productions.
“I would love to get a really sexy movie with big movie stars that comes here and it’s great, like you see on the Oscars. Something like that. I wanna get The Last of Us. Would love to see something like that.
“Our time is coming. At this point, infrastructure wise, we would still have to bring tons in if we got something like that.”