Revelstoke could become a big screen main-stay in coming years.
According to Columbia Shuswap film commissioner David Barritt, Revelstoke has potential to become an international filming destination within the next three to five years, with benefits of the city’s general aesthetic and landscape diversity, along with worldwide recognition, being a major draw to filmmakers.
“Being that Revelstoke has a national, and even an international, name, it becomes a spot on their mind when they start to leave the lower mainland and are looking for snow, looking for mountainous regions, looking for that small town charm,” explains Barritt. “Revelstoke is positioned beautifully for the international film market, it really is.”
Barritt, who has held the position of Columbia Shuswap film commissioner through the CSRD since April 2017, says while there has been quiet interest in Revelstoke in the past as a filming destination, it has not been fully capitalized on.
As part of his position, Barritt directs inquiries for filmmakers interested in finding locations in the CSRD based on basic outlines and location types desired by filmmakers.
Usually, Barritt explains, this entails sending a package of possible locations throughout the region, often highlighting Salmon Arm and Revelstoke as major destinations.
However, recently, specific inquiries for Revelstoke have begun to gain momentum.
“At the end of last year and the start of this year, I must have had at least a half dozen inquiries that were Revelstoke specific,” says Barritt. “So Revelstoke is high interest, it’s a majority of my inquiries — people already know they want to come to Revelstoke.”
With Kelowna’s film industry gaining momentum through the development of Eagle Creek Studio last year, Barritt says the close proximity of Revelstoke will make the city even more appealing to filmmakers.
“As we see Kelowna develop, and potentially Kamloops a little bit, they’ll start to look for ‘Where do I get my ski hill now?’ Or ‘Where do I get my small town feel now?’ And that is the Columbia Shuswap/Revelstoke for sure,” says Barritt.
The City of Revelstoke included film industry development in their 2017 annual report, which was presented at the June 26, 2018 council meeting.
In the report, community economic development director Nicole Fricot says the City has “worked closely with the regional film commissioner to identify new possible filming locations in and around Revelstoke.”
Fricot also mentions two multi-day productions, Hallmark film’s Marry me at Christmas and Frozen in Love filmed in Revelstoke in 2017, as well as 12 inquiries to Economic Development from interested productions.
In addition to these productions, Fricot says several smaller projects were shot in Revelstoke throughout the year.
According to Fricot, the city has made an effort to accommodate the film industry in Revelstoke due to the direct economic benefits hosting such productions creates.
“There is significant opportunity in terms of economic impact of the film industry coming to town,” says Fricot. “We have seen over the last year and a half a couple of different film companies take advantage of Revelstoke as a filming destination. And during their stays in Revelstoke, they spent a considerable amount of money on a variety of different sectors.”
Fricot says that in addition to accommodation expenses, film crews benefited local businesses through equipment and decoration purchases, as well as professional services, such as snow plowing and moving and hired teachers for young actors.
Barritt estimates that the seven day visit from the crew who filmed Frozen in Love in Revelstoke last December resulted in city wide spending of between $80,000-$100,000.
Beyond direct economic impact, Barritt says growing the reputation of Revelstoke as a filming destination could lead to tourism benefits, as film fans are often drawn to visit locations they’ve seen on the screen.
“Whether they’re attracted to the fact that ‘this is a beautiful area that I saw in the background of a movie,’ or ‘I wanna go there because it was my most favourite movie and I want to stand in the same spot Kevin Costner did,’” says Barritt. “There are people on the planet that will travel around the world to these locations to stand in the spot where Lord of the Rings was shot.”
While Fricot says the city is supportive of developing Revelstoke as a film destination in coming years, she also says an effort has been made to communicate limitations to filmmakers and production companies.
“There’s two sides to this — both the potential benefits for them of filming in Revelstoke, but also there’s a really important other side of this which is the limitations of what we see and would be comfortable with,” says Fricot. “There’s been certain film companies that have come forward that have proposed something that, over time, became apparent that it was probably not a good option for Revelstoke to take up these opportunities, and I’ve told them to move on.”
These concerns, Fricot says, have more to do with impact rather than size of production.
“Considerations are: Where do they want to film? What do they want to do?” says Fricot. “So do they want to film in the downtown core for two months at a time? That’s a massive impact that we would have to really seriously consider with all the stakeholders within that area.”
Earlier this year, the Okanagan Film Commission reported a return of $30,221,500 on its $229,000 investment in the film industry in the region in 2017.
Fricot says feedback for Revelstoke’s part in the growing B.C. film industry has been mostly positive from stakeholders, though some have voiced concerns of the impacts having these productions come to town could have.
“There are some stakeholders that struggle with it more, and they have a right to do so. There’s always going to be some who are more heavily impacted, so we have to manage that relationship carefully,” says Fricot.
As production companies are often filming in Revelstoke to achieve a “small-town, quaint feeling,” Fricot says many opt to shoot in Grizzly Plaza.
“There are stakeholders that have found that to be very good for their business, and then there’s others where it has been less good for their business,” says Fricot. “Part of my role has been to advocate for them and to help them make sure the film company is compensating them for any loses, if they’re going to incur loses, and interacting with our businesses in the most upfront and trustworthy, open way possible.”