From knowledge to networks: growth of a Nelson screen-based industry

From the Civic Theatre’s Brian May

SBI Facebook promo to collaborate on a Kootenay-based anthology pilot. From the National Film Board’s Buster Keaton Rides Again.

By Brian May

It was a few years back — five perhaps, maybe six. Who can remember, and really, does it matter? It’s just a story.

At some unsubstantiated date my son and I received emails about a film project. Knowledge Network was sponsoring a competition to produce vignettes about Kootenay history and he had been encouraged to apply. It’s less clear why I — a person with no discernible talents — would get the same email, but that’s not crucial.

Cut. Scene two, three months later. Son A is back in town on a summer evening and we’re ambling through the doors of Mike’s Place pub. Gazing through the darkness for a familiar face we soon settle in to hear stories from Rudy and Murray, executives from the Knowledge Network. That was the start of a whirlwind weekend for local filmmakers. If nothing came of it, we would at least enjoy a rare beer together.

What Rudy and Murray offered was a wonderful opportunity. The shortlisted presenters were taught how to package credentials, resources, budgets, and story ideas to pitch a story. What everyone learned by the end of the weekend, aside from the essential business skills, was that a wide collective of filmmaking talent was amassing in the area and few knew each other.

The Knowledge Network was acutely aware of how the region draws creative people. They talked about helping to nurture growth in this group. I don’t know if that ever happened but flash forward five years and meet Aeja Goldsmith, actress, model, psychic channel, and The Civic’s screen-based industry community coordinator.

There may be no formal link between the earlier initiative and The Civic’s efforts, but that’s how economic movements evolve. Recognition of a need, coordination of stakeholders, gathering resources, and then concrete results. Right now we’re in those middle phases and Aeja’s helping to bring them together.

One of the first SBI initiatives was the creation of the screen-based industry workers Facebook group. Its goal is to “connect people working in all aspects of film, video, TV, and online production with a goal to support further development of the professional film sector in the Kootenays.”

Members include those with pages of credentials in some specific craft — lighting, camera, post-production — to software developers, actors, and people with some interest to grow with the sector. Well, that group has now grown to almost 300.

The Civic is providing coordination and resources but, in doing that, Aeja is also sharing local film content, advising them on industry stats and trends, and pointing them toward opportunities such as Banff Media Festival bursaries or Telus Optik community films sponsorships. Members themselves use the site to coordinate training in processing 16 mm film, soliciting crew members, and dialogue on equipment needs. Lone filmmakers aren’t floundering in the wilderness anymore.

From our end we’re looking to help the industry move to the next phase. Recently we’ve sent out questionnaires on training opportunities and in coordination with the Kootenay Columbia Film Region we send out our professional film experience questionnaire to gather resumes for camera. lighting, editing, costume skills and more so that producers know what they can draw on in this region. Then, once we expand the theatres, we will look at adding production space.

Our next biggest initiative involves the SBI meetups. These are regular meetings at The Civic on specific topics such as script writing or to develop ideas that will allow independent artists to tackle larger productions. Aeja says, “If you have a link to the industry, an interest, or an idea you’re welcome to attend. Check the Facebook page.” That’s how we move.

Of course these efforts require time and people. You won’t find them at the multiplex. This winter we’ve been waiting to hear about possible grant support that would allow us to put further programs in place and that’s all part of the fun.

But enough about that. You wanted to know if we won that Knowledge Network bid. No. Watershed Productions put together a terrific pitch and made Dreamers and Dissidents while Son A and I enjoyed the time to network and share a beer. Priceless. Oh, and we each got a nice t-shirt with a big K on it. Knowledge is key. You heard it here first. See you at The Civic.

Brian May is on the Civic Theatre board of directors.

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