CREATIVE * K aml oo p s
Kamloops’ Memorial Arena and CP Train Yard. BRADY PHOTO
Editor’s Note Creativity and viable economics have a tortured relationship. Creativity can drive, reinvent and slow industry, but sometimes art is so wonderful and weird that it seems to only exist in the living rooms of the frivolously wealthy. The term creative economy suggests inherent conflict. In popularizing the term with his 2001 book The Creative Economy, John Howkins wrote “New ideas, not money or machinery, are the source of success today, and the greatest source of personal satisfaction.” It suggests a future where more and more people work in careers that they love and seek out, where fewer and fewer people give up on their dreams to work for a paycheque. Kamloops is at a crossroads of creativity and industry. At this junction, a series of questions must be asked: What is creative? Are mines creative? What is creativity, if commodified? Is it sustainable? Are mines sustainable? What makes people happy? What stock do we put in our happiness? Some of those macro questions are easier to answer than others. For our questions, we took a microscope to Kamloops. Is Kamloops missing out on the potential for animation to help drive our creative economy (p.10)? Do we have ample space for performers coming to town (p.6)? And in the face of the Kamloops Daily News’ shuttering, what role do newspapers play in a creative economy (p.8)? These questions are important, and creative economies will continue to play a larger role across the world. So much so that the United Nations is keeping a close eye on creative economies in developing countries. In a special 2013 report on the subject, they wrote: “Unlocking the potential of the creative economy therefore involves promoting the overall creativity of societies, affirming the distinctive identity of the places where it flourishes and clusters, improving the quality of life where it exists, enhancing local image and prestige and strengthening the resources for imagining diverse new futures. In other words, the creative economy is the fount, metaphorically speaking, of a new ‘economy of creativity,’ whose benefits go far beyond the economic realm alone.”
Sounds mighty fine, doesn’t it? Enjoy the read. — Sean, Jessica and Travis
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Creative ventures 4 On the arts beat: Dale Bass 5 FULL LENGTH Solving the venue crisis 6 Creative economies and their newspapers 8 Animating the screen-based economy 10
CREATIVE KAMLOOPS day of every month, The Art We Are presents “The Art You Are: evenings of creative expression,” an open mic and poetry slam. The regular event invites all levels and styles of music, poetry, theatre, performance art and rants.
The Kamloops Film Society
The Kamloops Film Society runs three main events that showcase both the work of local filmmakers and indie films from across the globe. The Kamloops Film Series is a biweekly screening of Canadian, independent and international films that runs from September to November. This year marked the 18th annual Kamloops Film Festival, which featured 14 films, including Oil Sands Karaoke, Cas & Dyan, If I had Wings and Whitewash. The festival typically spans ten days every spring at the Paramount Theatre and tries to showcase any feature films that were made in the area. “In terms of the film society, we work to promote and highlight and bring in film that highlights what the region does,” said Mark Wallin, member for the Film Festival committee and film society. Local talent gets the opportunity to shine at the The Kamloops Independent Short Shorts Festival, which presents the work of resident filmmakers. The annual May festival screens five minute or shorter films in any genre. The films are all independently produced and filmmakers must have full copyright compliance for all their material. Commercial producLive at The Art You Are. BUETTNER PHOTO tions are not accepted, making the contest a true local amateur showcase. “What’s nice is the young filmmakers that began as teenBY JESSICA KLYMCHUK agers and young people making film and presenting at the “Canadian live music is phenomenal and our mandate is to KISS festival, are now growing up and making more and The Art We Are make our shows affordable so that people can participate in more sophisticated film,” Wallin said. The Art We Are is a locally owned and operated coffee 2013 winners included Dusan Magdolen for Bar-intender, shop in downtown Kamloops that showcases the work of lo- as many events as they wish,” its website states. cal artists. It exhibits pottery, jewelry, photography, sculptures, Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. it features live mu- Igor Kostin for Stairs and Leon Racicot for This Side of the Fence. sic. In April they hosted Kamloops’ Madison Olds, Winniclothing, woodwork, weaving and anything else that artists peg’s Lindsey Walker and Victoria’s Beautiful Mr. Sunflower. may wish to share with the world. The eclectic coffee house The Art We Are Kamloops Film Society is also a music venue welcoming local acts as well as attract- It lets the artists determine the door price for their event and www.kamloopsfilmsociety.ca retain 100 per cent of the profits from up to 50 people. Door www.theartweare.com ing entertainers all the way from Halifax, Toronto, Winni250-828-7998 peg, Saskatchewan, Edmonton, Yukon, Vancouver and even prices usually range from $5 to $10. From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., on the second and last WednesNashville.
On the Arts Beat: Dale Bass BY TRAVIS PERSAUD
Kamloops This Week arts reporter Dale Bass at her desk. PERSAUD PHOTO
Exploring the arts scene with Kamloops This Week arts reporter Dale Bass Based on your reviews, what is one of the essential Kamloops arts experiences? I think the theatre community is exceptional, and in that I would include TRU’s theatre art program, which I adore. What effect do you think local education has on the arts community in Kamloops? It’s ironic that you would ask me this question, because I just finished writing a story on Ian Weir, who is the creator
of a TV show called Arctic Air. He’s from Kamloops. In that interview, he praised the theatre arts program in both the secondary system and at TRU for the number of exceptional people it turns out who go into television, who go into theatre, who go into plays, who write books. And if you look around Kamloops, Westsyde [Secondary School] has an exceptional theatre arts program, South Kamloops [Secondary School] does, Beattie School of the Arts has a good one. TRU is fantastic. It’s like they get it here. And let me tell you a little bit more just to give you some perspective, because I’m from Southern Ontario, and I lived two hours either way from Toronto, where every theatre is. When Alan [Bass, husband] got the job out here and we were planning to move here, I kind of dreaded it because I thought, “Oh my god, I’m going to the B.C. interior, there will to be no arts or culture there.” And then I get here and discover that there really is, and for the size community of that we have, it is quite exceptional. Since coming to Kamloops in 1999, which art sector have you seen grow the most? I don’t think any of them have grown a lot. I think they’ve always been there, they’ve just matured. I adore what Daryl Cloran has done with Western Canada Theatre, up at TRU, Heidi [Verwey], Robin [Nichol] and Wes [Eccleston] have worked really really hard to engage the rest of the community and recognize the kind of work that the kids there do. You know creation of the School of the Arts certainly helped. It brought a focus on the fact that we do have a really vibrant arts and entertainment community. What do you think is the best kept secret in the arts community here? I think it would have to be TRU’s theatre arts program. I don’t think enough people realize the quality of production they do up there. They’re students, and that they want to stretch and they want to try and they do some great stuff. And some of it, I’ve gone in thinking, “Oh my god.” But it’s been good, as long as you recognize they’re students. What do you think is missing from the Kamloops arts scene that other cities have? A performing arts centre! A decent performing arts centre. 5
Add the adjective “decent.” I don’t think the city really gets – from what I understand from the FOI that I got – really gets what they should have. What constitutes a decent performing arts centre? Something that’s adaptable to a variety of sizes and configurations. I got a little nervous when I read that they wanted a 1,500-seat theatre. I would like to know if that can be divided off into like 400 for productions that won’t work in a black box theatre. There’s that thing where they’re also talking about a 300-seat black box. Sometimes you’ll get a performer who can sell only sell 400 seats, he can’t sell 1,500. But he can sell more than 300 and he needs to be in something other than a black box. Aside from theatre arts, have you noticed any other sectors growing like animation or filmmaking? Yeah, I think that’s getting more attention too. I think the film festival – the Kamloops Film Society – promotes the small films, which works. And you’ll see more of that coursework being done in high schools now because it’s not just reading, writing, and arithmetic anymore. I know just at Beattie, because I’m most familiar with it, they have students who are studying staging and production and my two young boys took video production there. I know that the school district has got the DigiPen program, and some of the schools offer animation courses. I think that the breadth of course options that’s being provided from the elementary system all the way through to the post-secondary has grown. I mean dance, dance is a class. Yearbook! Yearbook is a course. It used to be something that the geeks did on their own. And that involves layout and design and things like that. I think the whole education system has expanded to embrace the various skills that are needed to feed that economy. And so as that infrastructure grows, what is going to keep that talent in Kamloops? Not a damn thing – a performing arts centre! [Laughs] I don’t know. To get your legitimacy, you have to go down to Vancouver. But these performers travel. They go all over the place, but they all come back home.
Solving the venue crisis
closure of the Kamloops Daily News (KDN), which ceased publication on Jan. 11, 2014. The city jumped at the opportunity, announcing on March 6 that it would purchase the lot from Glacier Media for $4.8 million. The money for the purchase would come from parking revenues and funds earmarked for parking infrastructure. The city now plans to use the lot for a parkade. “If you’re trying to attract 1,000 people to a venue, you need some parking for it as well. Whether that’s part of the parkade or in addition to the parkade, that’s yet to be seen,” Milobar said in 2011. Although the location of the performing arts centre is still unknown, the purchase of the KDN lot and parkade to follow makes Milobar’s 2011 campaign promise that much closer to reality. The other major step taken towards the project is the city’s commitment to a feasibility study for the centre. On March 25, a $260,000 study was approved as a supplementary budget item. The location and size will likely be two things determined by the study, which will take six months, according to contract documents presented by the city. The news is welcome to those involved in the arts around town. “There is a true venue crisis in the city,” Corbishley said. Touring performers are particularly affected by the lack of venues, according to Corbishley, who said that with the demand from domestic performers, those touring stand little chance at finding a space to play. “I think there’s lots of things that just aren’t happening because we don’t have a venue of this size,” Corbishley said. The Interior Savings Centre currently serves the 1,000-seat venue demand by moving the stage to the short end of the arena, but Corbishley noted that when that is done, it appears as if the performer didn’t sell enough tickets, despite only setting out to sell between 1,000 and 1,500. “It’s kind of a big space to accommodate a smaller need,” he said. Andrew Cooper is an actor, dancer and choreographer living in Kamloops. He recently graduated from Thompson Rivers University and wants to keep acting in Kamloops, and recently auditioned for a string of Western Canada Theatre productions that would allow him to do just that. As someone with a future in acting in this town, the addition of a new centre is of particular interest to him. Cooper doesn’t think the city needs another 700-seat venue and he mirrored Corbishley’s recommendation for 300 to 500 seats.
BY SEAN BRADY
The dream of a new performing arts centre in Kamloops is slowly being realized
teps are being taken to bring a new performing arts centre to Kamloops, following a “venue crisis” that has resulted in some acts skipping Kamloops in their tours. The City of Kamloops recently took two major steps towards a new performing arts centre. The idea for a new centre isn’t a new one, but the current set of plans stem from 2011. “The time has definitely come to try to go forward and advance the performing arts centre in a serious fashion,” then-incumbent Kamloops mayor Peter Milobar told the media during his campaign unveiling on Oct. 29, 2011. The announcement followed Milobar’s work with the city’s arts commission’s cultural strategic plan formed several years prior. “Over the next three years, I would like to see strong steps made towards that, if not construction started,” Milobar said to media. Kamloops’ current stock of venues includes the 4,000-plus Interior Savings Centre, the 700-seat Sagebrush Theatre and the Pavilion Theatre, which seats about 150. “I’m a big advocate for an additional venue – Alan Corbishley that is a 300 to 500-seat theatre,” said Alan Corbishley, the artistic director for BC Living Arts, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting arts and creativity in Kamloops. The organization also hosts a series of concerts and theatrical events. “The Sagebrush does a great job, but it’s not built for symphonic type shows. It’s also a little undersized for some of the other shows coming in,” Milobar said in 2011. The mayor slated the new venue’s capacity between 1,000 and 1,200, noting that he intended to augment the Sagebrush, not replace it. “The first step would be to figure out a location. There’s two obvious choices out there, somewhere in the North Shore or somewhere downtown,” Milobar said. The lot at 393 Seymour Street suddenly became available following the unexpected
I think there’s lots of things that just aren’t happening because we don’t have a venue of this size.”
CREATIVE KAMLOOPS “A performing arts centre would be really useful to have when shows tour in town and when dance studios need to put on their final production of the year, and when bands come into town. “And it’d be really good for smaller theatre companies,” Cooper said. “There are a couple of smaller community theatres in town that would really be able to utilize that space. If that happened, it would free up the Sagebrush for more productions from companies like Western Canada Theatre or Project X Theatre, if they wanted to play in an indoor space. “More venues would make more theatre opportunities available, basically,” Cooper said. One of the groups that may benefit is the Kamloops Players. The community theatre group is currently leasing the Stage House Theatre on the North Shore and plays to crowds up to 80 people. If Cooper is right about how an additional venue would free up space, the Kamloops Players may see larger venues available to them. “I think we struggle, in general, for our marketing and branding for particular venues,” said Tammi Rose, cast member and president of the Kamloops Players. As for location, Rose favours the North Shore for the new centre. “I would prefer to see it located somewhere like the Henry Grube Centre, something like that,” she said. The Henry Grube Education Centre is located on the southern tip of the North Shore, right on the confluence of the Thompson Rivers. “I don’t think the Henry Grube Centre will happen,” Corbishley said. “Although I think it’s a really fantastic site, if we can
make it architecturally unique and make a really good focal point when looking from across the river to the North Shore – much like the Sydney Opera House. I think that would be the only reason to put it on the North Shore, other than to rejuvenate the cultural side of things. “From what I understand it’s not going to go over there, but from a symbolic standpoint, it would look really good and show that we are not only a sports community but that we have culture as well.” Corbishley noted potential problems with the Henry Grube site, such as the risk of flooding, unstable ground and locating parking for the centre in a residential area. It would appear that so far, downtown is the leading candidate. “I’m not really happy with the choice or selection, but they want to keep that downtown core alive, right,” Rose said. “Peter Mutrie, who used to be the North Shore Business Improvement Association president, he was very pro-arts and culture, [that] Granville Island kind of feel – the markets, the murals, that kind of thing. With free parking here, level ground, the North Shore is affordable space, so I think it should be here. “There’s so many positives that people just don’t know because everything goes up on the hill now.” Cooper, on the other hand, thinks downtown is a solid candidate. “Downtown would be a good place. Just to keep a lot of the theatre in the same general area. The Sagebrush and the Pavilion are really close, so having another theatre in the downtown area would be a good way to centralize a lot of the arts community in one space.”
CREATIVE KAMLOOPS Ashley Demedeiros, editor of the Downtown and North Shore Echo. PERSAUD PHOTO
Print breathes life into creative economies BY TRAVIS PERSAUD
When community newspapers do well, creative economies do well
ommunity journalism has a recognizable face. Ashley Demedeiros, the current editor of both the North Shore and Downtown Echo, is one of those faces in Kamloops. Demedeiros is sitting at her desk, fidgeting, half-working, half-conversing as Kings of Leon come through the computer speakers. She’s excited for their upcoming show in Vancouver. The sun is setting through her small window, backlighting her figure, illuminating the collage of previous issues of The Echo finished into the floor. Community journalism: It’s her face and the excitement in which she speaks about a recent fashion show by a local high school student. “It’s the kind of journalism practiced by newspapers where the readers can walk into the newsroom and tell an editor what’s on their mind,” wrote Jock Lauterer, author of Community Journalism: Relentlessly Local. On any given weekday, Demedeiros can be found at her second-floor desk, tucked away in a small open office space across from the mouth of a narrow stair case. A stair case whose decorative choices saw their fashionable days pass with the death of Chrysler’s K-car. Hugh Nicholson is a newspaper man and an advocate for community journalism. Before coming to B.C. five years ago, he ran Osprey Media newspapers in Ontario. Nicholson moved to B.C. to take the publisher position at the Prince George Citizen, later moving on to publish the Nanaimo Daily News while managing all of Glacier Media’s paper on Vancouver Island. Additionally, Nicholson sits as the president of the British Columbia and Yukon Community Newspaper Association. Nicholson knows his way around a community newspaper, and more importantly, he knows the impact they have on the local community. “We have a huge impact on the psychology of our communities, so depending on what we run on the front page, you either want to pull the covers over your head and stay in bed the whole day or you want to go out and have lunch, or buy a new car, or hire somebody,” said Nicholson. “We have that impact on our communities.” And local creative economies feel the weight of this influence. In some cases it’s the reporting on the happenings in the local creative economy. Take for instance, the role local newspa-
pers play for the Western Canada Theatre (WCT). “In a town the size of Kamloops, which is very community based, a community newspaper is invaluable along with the radio and TV stations. Kamloops is rather blessed in that its community media is all strong,” said Catrina Crowe, marketing and communications director for WCT. In other cases, like that of the Nanaimo Pub Summit, it’s an overt push from the newspaper that pushes the local creative economy to the next level. Nicholson answered a call on behalf of Nanaimo for nominations to host a pub summit. Pub summits are held in order to find candidates for the Dublin Web Summit, what Nicholson describes as “the Olympics for start-ups.” With Nicholson’s bidding, Nanaimo was selected as one of three cities on the west coast of North America to hold a pub summit in the 2013 lead up to the Dublin Web Summit – the other two cities were San Francisco and Los Angeles. “The tech summit would not have happened if our newspaper had not done this,” Nicholson said, recalling the event. “We can be the catalyst.” And as a catalyst, community newspapers become an icon of community health. 8
“I view the community newspaper as the canary in the coal mine. If a community newspaper is doing well, it usually means that the community still has some vibrancy left,” Dennis Merrell, executive director of the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association, told the King’s Journalism Review.
do stories,” Demedeiros said. “I’ve noticed that more people, when I tell them where I work, they’re like, “Oh, yeah. I know that paper,” Whereas before they’re like, “I don’t know if I’ve ever read that.” “We may not have the largest payroll, we may not have the largest number of employees, but a good local, community newspaper, or daily newspaper is arguably the most powerful business in the community,” Nicholson said. This power – Hugh Nicholson comes from the paper’s agenda-setting ability. Agenda-setting theory, a theory brought to prominence during a study of the 1968 presidential election in the United States, described the impact media have on the issues deemed important by the public. Community newspapers own a spotlight, and most of the community follows that spotlight. For The Echo, this spotlight is a chance to put Kamloops’ best face forward. “We don’t write outside of our local economy. We don’t really talk about the hard issues, the only time we do is if someone sends a letter to the editor, we’ll publish it,” said Demedeiros. “Generally we run feel good stories, showing the good sides of Kamloops that people generally don’t get to see or hear.” It’s this watchful eye that gives creative economies the boost they need. Momentum has to build from somewhere, and what better place than from a community newspaper.
A good local, community newspaper, or daily newspaper is arguably the most powerful business in the community.”
Though this draws questions about the viability of newspapers economically speaking, it’s a sentiment the Nicholson mirrors. “We are a business first and foremost. We are a unique kind of business because we are invited into so many homes, but at the same time we have shareholders we have to be accountable to.” He continues, “But I’ve never found our interests, as our shareholder’s interests, to be at opposite ends of what’s good for our communities. They tend to be in synch. So as our business does well, we do well because our communities do well. So if we do a good job of promoting those initiatives in our communities that are providing jobs and doing good things, then our business – a rising tide raises all boats, so everybody benefits from that.” When the newspapers do well, so to does the local creative economy. A statement that might seem stark for Kamloops residents facing the all-too-recent closure of the community’s daily newspaper. But a saving grace lies in the capacity of the city’s other print media. Almost immediately, Kamloops This Week announced its plan to increase production in the wake of the Daily’s death. As for The Echo, “We’ve noticed that more people have been contacting us to
Animating the screen-based economy
The 2013 German-language film Gold was filmed in 45 different areas at Big Bar Guest Ranch in the Southern Caribou. PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMPSON-NICOLA FILM COMMISSION
The film industry has changed drastically in the digital era but the Thompson-Nicola is still the Wild West BY JESSICA KLYMCHUK
echnology has brought a convergence of media onto the screen. Your newspaper, your magazine, your social life, your banking, your games and your advertising have all been digitized. B.C. is home to a $4.5-billion creative industry that is rapidly adapting to the screen-based economy of the 21st century. But in Kamloops, the convergence of media is also affecting the industry that introduced the screen: film, itself. In April 2013, the programs and services of the B.C. Film Commission and B.C. Film and Media were merged to form Creative BC, which now represents the interests of B.C.’s motion picture, interactive digital, music and publishing sectors. Creative BC is a young agency that is responsible for promoting and developing all creative industries in the province. When it absorbed the B.C. Film Commission, it effectively became the mother ship of B.C.’s eight regional film commissions, including the Thompson-Nicola Film Commission (TNFC) of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD). “In a sense, you’re having a
technology revolution and it’s changing where we consume media, how we consume media and the content of the media,” said TNFC film commissioner Victoria Weller. The TNFC operates on over $200,000 in revenue to bring filmmakers and crews to the region. From Battlestar Galactica, the Twilight Saga’s Eclipse, 2012 to Flicka, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and The A-Team, filmmakers flock to the Thompson-Nicola for its unique geography. From an awareness standpoint, the TNFC reported that 2013 was an outstanding year. It received an honourable mention from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities for a series of promotional vignettes that were produced in-house, focusing on communities in the regional district. TNRD locations were showcased overseas when the German-language film Gold, which was filmed in the region, was featured at the Berlinale Film Festival and in multiple magazines. The TNRD-shot film, Shana, was featured at the Vittoria
Veneto Film Festival in Italy and Vancouver’s Reel to Real International Film Festival. Weller said the film continues to have reach audiences and the TNFC worked in partnership with Reel to Real to advertise that it was shot in the Thompson-Nicola. “In terms of screen, we’re doing pretty good at building aware10
ness,” Weller said, “but economic expenditures were not that great.” There weren’t many prospects for major film production in the region in 2013. Weller said the TNRD didn’t attract any of the feature or Hollywood films they hope to get. The TNRD is a “script and locations-driven region,” meaning films are usually
shot here solely because the locations match the demands of the script. The TNRD doesn’t tend to attract television productions because they can often film in studios. “Content is king and if it’s not [in the script] then it doesn’t matter what your locations are,” she said. “[Last year] our loca-
CREATIVE KAMLOOPS tions did not satisfy the need or the budget.” From a statistical standpoint, the B.C. film industry is doing well, but it’s actually a reflection of the digital animation sector. Statistics Canada releases data on the industry every two years. In 2013, it reported that the Canadian film, television and video production industry saw an increase of 13.2 per cent in operating revenues from 2010 to 2011 and profit margins increased to 4.8 per cent. B.C. came in third behind Ontario and Quebec, bringing 13.8 per cent of the total operating revenue for the industry. Feature productions are
responsible for only 11.4 per cent of production revenues. Television productions lead with 59.8 per cent and commercials follow with 13.6 per cent of production revenues. Weller said digital media is always included with the government’s end statistics, which is why the film industry appears to be growing. In terms of big feature films, the TNRD was down. “That’s where we get hurt,” she said. “This is why you want to get into the digital media and certainly digital visual effects.” Digital animation is a growing industry and the gaming and interactive media sector sees a In 2010’s The Twilight Saga: Eclipse starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, Ashcroft Slough doubled for Texas. PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMPSON-NICOLA FILM COMMISION
growth rate of around 12 per cent annually. According to Creative BC, the province’s animation companies are making headway in computer animation for television and long-form CGI for feature films and interactive entertainment. Most of these companies are working out of Vancouver. DigiBC boasts over 600 digital companies in B.C.’s digital media sector, which includes video gaming, and an established presence in Vancouver. The Okanagan has seen a boom in digital animation since Disney bought the animated online children’s game, Club Penguin, and the media giant established a production studio in Kelowna in 2007. Disney paid $350 million for the game, and now runs Disney Online Studios in the city, part of Disney Interactive Media Group. Okanagan film commissioner Jon Summerland said the Okanagan now has a thriving digital animation sector. “Our animation industry is probably the biggest bread and butter we have,” he said, adding that such contracts are worth millions. “It’s growing quite rapidly.” Summerland said Kelowna, in part, is finding success in digital animation production because of the labour sources that its local post-secondary institutions 11
provide. Both Okanagan College and the Centre for Arts and Technology Kelowna offer education in animation, while the University of British Columbia Okanagan offers film studies. “We have two schools that are pumping out animators,” Summerland said. Although B.C. comes up second behind Quebec in digital animation, the Thompson-Nicola attracts very little of that work. Mastermind Studios is Kamloops’ sole full-service video production company advertised on the TNFC website, but as for animation, Weller said there are “no companies here.” Compared to Kelowna, the region has no major digital animation studios and no 3D digital animation programs or film production programs to source labour. “We can’t even address it anymore. We don’t go there,” Weller said. Kamloops’ School District 73 partnered with Washington’s DigiPen Institute of Technology in 2011 to offer video-game design classes during students’ first semester in Grades 11 and 12 at Sahali Secondary School. The school district has been running DigiPen summer courses since 2007. However, the students must leave the city to pursue a post-secondary education in animation.
In 2011 Kamloops’ Thompson Rivers University (TRU) signed a memorandum of understanding with DigiPen, with a goal of eventually offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts in animation. But new programs are hard to come by at TRU, with limitations on funding and faculty restricting expansion into both film production and digital animation. “I do think we’ve got a lot of creative people. We’ve got a lot of inventive people,” said TRU professor Mark Wallin. “We’ve got a good creative economy that is here and it’s growing. We’re getting to the point where it will reach critical mass and something will happen, but we have to be flexible enough to be poised for when it does happen.” Wallin, a professor in the Journalism, Communication and New Media Department at TRU, has been trying to bring a film production program to the university for more than five years. In 2007, TRU had a film minor but it never developed into degree program. Ron Smith, of the Visual and Performing Arts Department, taught the film classes at the time, but when he retired in 2007, there was no one to take over. When Wallin was tasked with creating the communications program in 2009, he proposed that the new program work in
CREATIVE KAMLOOPS conjunction with Visual and Performing Arts to develop a film studies and digital production program. The film studies classes are currently running, but a lack of resources put the production aspect at a standstill. To offer what they would like to, the program needs a studio and equipment, including computers, cameras, lights and audio equipment. The production aspect is what would make TRU’s film program unique from anything offered in Kelowna, Wallin said. “The added piece is the work we are trying to do with DigiPen. But again, when you have a department that is chronically and persistently underfunded, it’s a really tough sell,” Wallin said. He said the success of the film theory classes proves there is still a demand for a film production program, but there is an identity crisis at hand. Although having digital animation and film production programs would connect Kamloops to a significant industry, Wallin says there is disbelief amongst stakeholders that the region has the capacity for it. “Part of the problem is this region doesn’t tend to think of itself as that type of place, despite the fact that many of the movies that many people in this area watch have been filmed here,” he said. “I think that’s a big problem. This region has this capacity but, for some reason, it’s never translated into an identity.” Wallin says the combination of an identity crisis and chronic underfunding at TRU will hinder both the film production program and any developments with DigiPen.
TRU currently offers a two-year diploma in digital art and design that includes web animation, but no 3D animation, no game development and no cartooning. Weller maintains that without resources for labour, Kamloops won’t be able to capitalize on the growth of the digital animation and interactive media sector. “Kamloops will miss out on that, which is too bad,” she said. B.C. offers a digital animation or visual effects tax credit that Weller says the TNFC will keep on its “radar.” The credit is currently 17.5 per cent, but the industry is lobbying for an increase to between 30 and 35 per cent. Tax credits on labour and travel already draw productions to the TNRD, but the provincial government won’t be increasing those basic tax incentives “whatsoever,” Weller said. An increase in digital animation tax credits could bring productions to the region, if it had the infrastructure. She said although the TNRD isn’t attracting those productions, it will continue to support the industry. “We still want it to be a good economy because it’s a good employer,” Weller said. For now the TNFC will continue to capitalize on the resources it does have and concentrate on its target markets: foreign feature films, domestic feature films and commercials. Because the TNRD is a script and locations-driven market, and Weller says the commission will continue to market its locations on an international level. Europe and California continue to be strong markets for the TNFC.
For the 2012 film The A-Team starring Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper, Elephant Hill Park in Ashcroft doubled for a Mexico desert, corral and roads. PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMPSON-NICOLA FILM COMMISSION
Produced April 2014. Editors: Sean Brady, Jessica Klymchuk, Travis Persaud