The last time Invest Ottawa hosted a similar event for the industry was two years ago, when 200 people took part. Saturday, registration was cut off at 650, said Bruce Harvey.
“There’s a lot of people that have skills that they believe will fit into the industry, and now it’s up to the producing community to start developing work for them,” Mr. Harvey said.
Mr. Harvey said Ottawa is “probably” the fourth biggest film and TV production centre in Canada, behind Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. While Calgary might want to lay claim to that position, Mr. Harvey said if animation is included in the equation, “we’ll blow them out of the water.”
“We are a big centre. We just need to keep that growing,” he said. “We have great locations in Ottawa. We have the crew base … it’s getting very strong. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a major production hub.”
Mr. Harvey owned a production company in Calgary before being appointed to the Invest Ottawa position in June of last year. He said his first priority was building a crew database, and while that is almost complete, work on an inventory of locations continues.
He said too much attention is paid to well-known tourist spots such as Parliament Hill and the Rideau Canal, places most people already know about.
“Hollywood is not as aware of the inner-city feel that is here if you were going to do … any sort of cop drama. If you look at this city, there’s a lot you can do here,” he said. “We don’t have big mountains and we don’t have huge oceans, but we have just about everything else here.”
Mr. Harvey said a third priority was building up the infrastructure of the industry – things like making sure there are companies in town that can supply the necessary equipment to film crews.
The need for infrastructure is something with which Bernard Major is very familiar.
“We’ve been talking about it for 15 years now,” said Mr. Major, who was the services and events manager for the Ottawa-Gatineau Film and Television Office before it was disbanded in 2011.
Mr. Major, who now runs his own production company, said the lack of a “real film studio” in the city is a real barrier to growth. He is calling for public and private investment to make it happen.
He said a large studio would help keep production companies in town longer because those choosing Ottawa for their exterior filming wouldn’t have to go to Toronto or Montreal to shoot indoor scenes.
Even without such a facility, Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, who sits on the film and television commission, said the industry represents a growing part of the city’s economy.
“It is an area where I think with a little bit more nurturing at the city ... the potential for some significant economic activity is huge,” he said, adding the commission is working on things such as improving how the city markets itself as a prime location for filming.