BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Lights, camera, free ride

Enderby and Lumby have hosted movie productions but don't fund the Okanagan Film Commission

Filmmakers are beating a path to Enderby and Lumby.

In the last couple of years, the North Okanagan’s star has sparkled as more and more movie productions make their way here. And much of the focus has been on the small communities surrounding Vernon.

It first started off with George Clooney and Tomorrowland in Enderby and Grindrod in 2014 and the activity was bumped up a couple of notches when Sir Anthony Hopkins, Ray Liotta and Julia Stiles brought Go With Me to Enderby, Lumby and Vernon in 2014.

Now, Numb is currently shooting largely in the Lumby/Cherryville area.

However, these productions didn’t just get here by fluke.

It’s taken a lot of hard work on the part of Jon Summerland, with the Okanagan Film Commission, who is constantly reading scripts to see if the region has what’s needed for the shoot. If it does, he ramps up lobbying of location managers and producers.

“It costs money to bring people in to scout the area. I have to wine and dine these people,” he said.

And if the production decides to come to the North Okanagan, the work doesn’t stop. Summerland ensures they remain happy while here, in the hopes that they will come back with another film.

And the payback can be lucrative. For Go With Me, the economic impact in the region was $5.7 million, and that’s not including all of the selfies residents got with Hopkins which bolstered Enderby’s social media profile.

Movie productions are increasingly hiring Okanagan residents to fill key crew positions and they live in places like Enderby because of the small town lifestyle and the work is coming to them. With their fairly decent salaries, they pay property taxes, purchase vehicles, go on holidays, shop and support local charities.

“We definitely saw the effect,” said Enderby Mayor Greg McCune when asked about the benefits from Go With Me.

However, the $24,000 grant the Okanagan Film Commission received from the Regional District of North Okanagan in 2014 only came from Vernon, Coldstream and Armstrong. That means not one nickel originated from the movie hot spots of Enderby, Lumby, Cherryville and rural Enderby, or even Spallumcheen and the other three electoral areas.

Essentially, those communities have been getting a free ride on the backs of Vernon, Coldstream and Armstrong taxpayers, as well as other valley communities to the south.

“Over time, we didn’t see any effects from it (commission) but it’s difficult not to support it now,” said McCune when questioned about Enderby’s lack of financial participation.

“We’ll definitely have a look at it. We have to pay our share.”

But while attitudes are evolving in Enderby, they aren’t budging much in Lumby.

“If they (film commission) come to our council, we will definitely discuss it,” said Kevin Acton, the village’s mayor.

For a mayor and council that proclaims strong interest in economic development, waiting for someone to come cap-in-hand isn’t very proactive. Lumby officials were quick to have their photo taken with Hopkins when he was in town, but they allow other communities to financially bank roll the process that brought him here. There’s something wrong with that picture.

To keep up with the increased demand from location scouts and production companies, the Okanagan Film Commission wants its RDNO contribution to climb from $24,000 to $35,000 this year.

Given the star-studded success of the last few years, the request is reasonable and provides a good return on tax dollars.

But if the pot of cash is to grow, all communities must participate on a fair and equitable basis.