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Training program feeds North’s growing film and TV sector

‘We need to take our homegrown talent and train them and build them up,’ says Northern Ontario Film Studios CEO David Anselmo

Training sessions offered in Sudbury, North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie this winter will ensure there are more qualified individuals available to work in Northern Ontario’s growing film and television sector.

Cultural Industries Ontario North (CION), with support from REEL CANADA, is currently facilitating the Northern Ontario Film Crew Training Sessions, a program providing free training to individuals residing in Northern Ontario who want to start a career in film and television production. 

The program, which began Jan. 30, consists of three weeks of workshops in Greater Sudbury, both in-person at Northern Ontario Film Studios (NOFS) and online, as well as in North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie.

Other partners in the project include DGC Ontario, IATSE 634, IATSE 411, IATSE 667, the City of Greater Sudbury and William F. White International.

By the conclusion of sessions, participants will have received direct, extensive training in the fields of production assistant, grip/electric and art department.

“This ambitious program will immediately fill workforce-related gaps and support the career progression of emerging talent,” said Patrick O’Hearn, CION’s associate executive director, speaking at a Feb. 9 press conference about the training scheme.

He said it’s important that when a film production comes to town, the skilled workers they need are available. 

O’Hearn said it’s hoped that the students being trained right now will be the next generation of film leaders. “So they take this training now, and they rapidly rise up through the production ranks,” he said.

One of the 160 participants in this winter’s training sessions is Dylan Gibson. He said he has been involved in some independent film productions in the past, and joined the training sessions to learn more.

As a family man, he’s not able to travel to work in film and television, but he is interested in possibly working in productions in the Sudbury area, as well as putting to use what he’s learning on his own future film projects.

“At the end of the day, I don't know if I want to be personally doing those jobs for the rest of my career,” he said. “But I want to be making films, and I better have an understanding of what the electricians do, what the lighting department does, what the sound department does.”

Gibson said he can see the opportunities available for someone young and ambitious, and able to become a journeyman worker.

David Ottier is the program’s Sound 101 Instructor. Having worked in the sector for 20 years, Ottier, the owner of Midcoast Sound, said he’s already trained many sound engineers who work in film and television in Northern Ontario and beyond.

He said the CION training program is great, as when you’re on set, you don’t have as much time to work with people who are new to the trade. “But now we have the gear here, we have the time,” Ottier said. “Now's the time to ask the questions.”

Growing a local film crew workforce is a critical step in Greater Sudbury, which has seen a strong increase in local productions, along with the economic impact that comes with them, said a press release issued by CION. 

Examples of recent productions in Sudbury include the Tier A production Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, as well as the newest seasons of New Metric Media’s Letterkenny and Shoresy television series.

Nineteen productions were filmed in Greater Sudbury in 2022, with an economic impact of $18.2 million, the highest since 2017. 

“It has been reported that Northern Ontario is one of the fastest-growing film production markets in North America,” said Greater Sudbury Deputy Mayor Jocelyne Landry-Altmann, speaking at the press conference.

“This is why I'm excited for these training sessions being offered to help many start their career in film and television, developing local talent while learning from experts all right here at home.”

David Anselmo, CEO of the Northern Ontario Film Studios, said 20 years ago, when he decided he wanted to have a career in film and television production, he had to go abroad to do that. 

But he eventually came back home, and founded Northern Ontario Film Studios, which he said over the past 10 years has opened up three facilities and done about $150 million in film productions in Northern Ontario.

“Specifically for the film industry, we need to take our homegrown talent and train them and build them up to the skills that they need to accomplish the tasks of making movies that are winning awards, and garnering accolades across the world,” Anselmo said. “We want to take it to the next level.”