The province has awarded $488,000 in funding for a new pilot project at North Island College (NIC) that will train North Island residents and First Nations to work in the film and TV industry.
With a growing labour need for locally trained crews in the region, both the Port Alberni and Campbell River campuses will develop curriculum and pilot delivery of TV and Film Production Crew Training programs, which includes two streams – one for production assistants and one for trades students.
The production assistant stream is geared towards First Nations students, who will receive a motion picture orientation ticket and the certifications required to work as entry-level production, location or office assistants.
“This is a great opportunity when productions come and work on First Nations’ land to hire locals,” said Joan Miller, Vancouver Island North film commissioner and lead partner in the pilot program.
The trades specialization stream will equip carpentry, plumbing and electrical journey persons, apprentices and students in trade foundation programs with the skills to work in set design and lighting. Once complete, they graduate with diverse skills to move between the construction and creative industries.
“We want to package it all together so that when [trades students] leave they would have these extra certificates that they can utilize for both the film industry and for other sectors that they may be working in,” Miller said. “It will help support the need we have right now.”
The need, Miller said, for trained, local production crew members in the province is constant. She says while there’s about 460 qualified film crew members in the region right now, most travel to the mainland for work.
“The film industry is so busy in British Columbia right now,” Miller said. “In the lower mainland, it’s so busy it’s bursting at the seams, and because of that there is a lack of crew.”
The announcement for the funding came from BC Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation, Michelle Stilwell, also the MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, on behalf of Shirley Bond, BC’s Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training on March 30.
“The Film and Television industry is booming in BC, with $2 billion in production spending here in the province, and many productions filming right here on Vancouver Island,” Stilwell said. “This growing sector of our economy provides job opportunities for locals as well as economic benefits for the communities within our region. The training programs that will be piloted in Campbell River and Port Alberni by North Island College will provide more of our residents with the skills needed to work in the industry, which will in turn attract more production companies to film here in the future.”
Miller said receiving the funding was like “winning the Oscars.”
“It’s been a big push for a long time to really have the film industry recognized as another sector of job creation,” Miller said.
The courses are expected to start in late September 2017, with course completion in early spring 2018 so students can be ready to work on productions planning to come to the Island next spring.
Although Miller couldn’t specify exactly what productions may be coming to the Island to film, she said that there is interest in McLean Mill, Coulson Aviation and west coast landscapes.
“We’re always over there scouting,” she said.
Industry partners involved in this project also will evaluate the programs, once complete, for possible expansion into other areas of B.C.