BY LAURA GREGORINI
Michael Dagostino left his teaching job at St. Charles College about four years to pursue acting and is making a living at it in Sudbury, something that would have been impossible just a few years ago.
The film and television industry has certainly exploded in the region in the last few years thanks to a number of factors. Government funding is luring big budget productions such as The Truth to Sudbury while brilliant films featuring local talent are being shot here.
“It was a huge leap, jumping from something comfortable into the unknown,” said Dagostino, who also played semi-professional football in Germany.
Dagostino is typed-cast as the “tough guy” but he doesn’t mind, it’s lead to some great acting gigs.
At first most of his work was based in Toronto but now he’s finding more opportunity in Sudbury. Dagostino had a role in the film High Chicago, was a body double for Andy Garcia in The Truth. and worked on the television series Hard Rock Medical, all filmed in Sudbury.
Meanwhile, on the production side of filmmaking, David Anselmo and Pierre Bonhomme‘s Northern Ontario Film Studio was a hub of activity this fall with work on the television series Dark Rising and the Hallmark Channel movie Be My Valentine starring Billy Baldwin.
The business partners teamed up with Cinefest and Collège Boréal to train people to work in the television and film industry.
Boréal students will have the opportunity to work at the film studios, located at the former Barry Downe Arena, and take courses to develop technical skills.
But filmmaking is a team effort. While colleges typically train professionals to work in the technical aspect of filmmaking, universities train the directors and producers who turn an idea into a movie.
Next September Thorneloe University will launch a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree with a major in Motion Picture Arts. Currently, students can take a minor in filmmaking but the major is something professor and filmmaker Benjamin Paquette has been working diligently on for years. Paquette said the new program couldn’t come at a better time. The film industry in the north is booming. Motion Picture Arts is the only program available of its kind north of Toronto. Paquette is also working on articulation agreements with northern colleges, including Cambrian College, to offer the same opportunity to students outside the university.
The aim of the city’s colleges and university is to create a self-sustaining film industry.
“We can do this in the north, all by ourselves,” agreed local filmmaker Darlene Naponse.
Naponse shot her last feature film, Every Emotion Costs, entirely in Whitefish Lake First Nation. The film travelled across North America in the film festival circuit, including a screening at Cinefest Sudbury.
The drama stars the country’s top aboriginal actors Gemini award winner Michelle St John and Tantoo Cardinal. About 75 percent of her film crew came live in Northern Ontario.
“We’re proud of the film,” said Naponse.” It was really a northern film, from cast to crew, to producing to locations.”
“We found it all here. We have the talent here and we don’t have to go outside for it.”
Over the last two years, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund has invested almost $5 million for film and television production in Sudbury. The Greater Sudbury Development Corporation has a film support fund that helps offset some of the filmmakers’ costs. To be eligible for funding, the producers must show a direct economic impact on the city’s economy.
What’s the buzz?
Northern Ontario Film Studios, established by David Anselmo and Pierre Bonhomme in the former Barry Downe Arena will allow filmmaking to become a year-round venture in Sudbury, as it offers production space, equipment and a training ground for people in the film industry to hone their craft.
Anselmo says, “The opportunity presented itself where a film needed a home to shoot out of and we thought,‘What a great idea to have a film come up here, use our facility and allow us to iron out the kinks of a 40-year-old building’.”
The Northern Ontario film industry has been able to attract film productions largely because of regional funding incentives, but the area’s unique qualities also make it an enticing location.
“We’ve got this beautiful wilderness, but then we also have this really gritty, urban industrial stuff that they love, and it’s very cinematic,”Bonhomme said. “So you can actually shoot Northern Ontario as many, many places.”
The benefits of the film industry are significant, said Anselmo. Every $1 million spent in the community results in 25 full-time spinoff jobs, and it employs a significant number of young people, keeping them in the north.
“The film industry really makes an impact on a community it shoots in,” Anselmo said. “Studies have shown that for every dollar spent in a community, we see an economic multiplier of three times. And it touches all facets of the community, from catering and food to hotels to car rentals to building supplies.”
Barry Downe Arena is a temporary location for the studio; Anselmo and Bonhomme are hunting for land to build a brand-new sound stage. In the meantime, they will welcome production crews through its doors as long as they need the space.
Source: Northern Ontario Business