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David Shepheard talks his to-do list as Vancouver’s first film commissioner

David Shepheard was announced as Vancouver's first film commissioner on Oct. 17, 2016.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Vancouver's first film commissioner says the boom in film and TV production in the province can survive fluctuations in the Canadian dollar or changes in provincial tax credits because producers are looking beyond those financial factors for convenient places to work.

David Shepheard, who is coming to B.C. from Film London, the agency that supports production in the British capital, says his to-do list as the new commissioner includes making the case to producers, largely in the United States, that the City of Vancouver has the best crews, equipment and sound stages.

In an interview after the announcement of his appointment on Monday, Mr. Shepheard noted that London has not had the best tax credits in the world, but instead traded on production-friendly qualities.

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"It's about the quality of the crews. It's about the infrastructure. It's about the services that you get for the money that you spend. It's about so much more, and I think that Vancouver has this as well," Mr. Shepheard said.

"Incentives do reflect on production and producers will jump from place to place, but it's the confidence of being able to get the work done and quality on the screen," said Mr. Shepheard, who will be working in a new Vancouver Film and Media Centre, a department of the Vancouver Economic Commission focused on production.

The B.C. government offers tax incentives to producers. The producers are able to get more from their American dollars here because the Canadian dollar is lower than its U.S. counterpart. Observers have also said B.C.'s time zone and its relatively short flight to Los Angeles are convenient for Hollywood-based companies.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail earlier this month, X-Files creator Chris Carter made a similar point, noting that incentives help, but he tells producers to come to B.C. "for the Canadians" who can help them. Mr. Carter shot his milestone TV series in Vancouver in the 1990s and returned last year to shoot further episodes. He is planning to return to Vancouver next spring to shoot a further round of X-Files.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson introduced Mr. Shepheard, on Monday, touting him and the new office as focused on sustaining the boom that has made the Vancouver region North America's third-largest production centre after Los Angeles and New York.

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"We're seeing a powerful convergence of screen-based entertainment here from film and television to digital media, visual effects, animation, virtual reality and gaming and we have a unique opportunity to grow significantly at a time when Vancouver is in the spotlight," Mr. Robertson said in an interview.

In addition to working in London, Mr. Shepheard previously built Abu Dhabi's film and TV development agency and served as its first director. Films shot in the emirate have included Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens and Furious 7.

According to the B.C. government, roughly 20,000 workers in the province are employed by the production sector, which largely consists of films from Hollywood such as Deadpool and Star Trek Beyond, Steven Spielberg's The BFG as well as TV series such as The Flash and Supergirl.

Although based in Vancouver, Mr. Shepheard said he will work with other municipalities to ensure that producers have a streamlined experience in B.C. While Vancouver is the focus of much of B.C.'s production, films and TV series are also shot across the Lower Mainland, on Vancouver Island and elsewhere in the province.

Creative BC, a provincial agency that supports the production sector, has eight regional film commissioners across the province. However, Wendy Booth, a Kootenay-based vice-president for the Union of B.C. Municipalities, said regions across the province that do not have their own film commissioners welcome the economic spinoffs of production.

Although the Lower Mainland is in the midst of a boom, Mr. Shepheard said he still has work to do. "We need that to continue," he said. "It's a very transient business. Tomorrow, somewhere else may come out with a different tax credit or [there may be] other issues in production. That production will go away just as quickly as it has come over the last few years."

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Editor's note. An earlier version of this story had Wendy Booth's first name wrong. This is the corrected version of the story.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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