BY ELLA MYERSNorthern Ontario can look forward to a steady flow of film projects over the next three years thanks to a new deal between Sudbury-based Hideaway Pictures and the Motion Picture Corporation of America (MPCA).The $100-million, multi-picture deal will bring even more projects to the already booming industry in the north.
Hideaway and the MPCA, which is known for its contributions to the Hallmark Channel, signed the deal in March, motivated by financial incentives like Northern Ontario Heritage Fund opportunities and federal and provincial tax credits. But, it was also largely due to the success of the first episode of their joint project, the Flower Shop Mysteries. The miniseries, filmed in North Bay, had the most popular premiere in the Hallmark Channel’s history.”This deal basically brings a steady influx of work to Northern Ontario,” said David Joseph Anselmo.
Anselmo, Hideaway’s founder and CEO, said around 72 per ent of the crew on their projects is from Northern Ontario, and jobs have cropped up to support it.
Micheline Blais was born in Sudbury, and studied nursing at Cambrian in the 1990s. When she moved out west in 1995, she worked on short films for some time, but couldn’t support herself. Fortunately, she had the nursing degree, and she worked in health care for over a decade. Blais moved back to Sudbury in 2005 and continued to work in health care, but she always wanted to get back into film, and in 2012, opportunity came knocking.
“I went out as an extra on a show, and that’s when I met Hideaway pictures,” said Blais. “I met with David and he suggested doing some casting.”
Four years later, she has a full-time business doing casting for Northern Ontario film industry. Over 75 per cent of her work is with Hideaway Pictures.
“To date, we’ve hired over 4,000 extras,” said Blais. “I’ll get substitute teachers who are looking to supplement their incomes, retirees, limited pensions, seasonal contract employees with the city — it’s made a huge impact.”
Blais said the new deal is not a surprise, but it is a reassurance.
“It solidifies the fact that we’re going to be here for a while,” said Blais. “We’re a mining town, there’s a downturn and a lot of economic challenges; it’s reassuring to know that there’s another industry happening simultaneously.”
But the economic impact extends beyond the film projects, crew and actors.
“It touches every part of industry,” said Anselmo. “On any given film we are spending millions and it trickles down.”
For example, with the Flower Shop Mysteries, they spent around $50,000 just on flowers for the set, which they bought from local florists. On another project, they spent $20,000 at a local restaurant for cast and crew, which allowed the restaurant to complete renovations and improvements.
Anselmo formed Hideaway Pictures and the associated Northern Ontario Film Studio in 2011, after years in theatre, television and film acting in Europe and South Korea. The film studio offers infrastructure, including turnkey offices, 16,000-square-foot space, grips, lighting equipment, vehicles and post-production supplies.
With the combination of financial incentives and established infrastructure, Anselmo said there’s just one thing he’s working on next: skilled labour.
“We need it now, and we’re developing it,” said Anselmo.