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New Vancouver Film Czar Bets on Human Factor to Sustain Production Boom

In a bid to maintain its status as a global production center, Vancouver has enlisted the help of a London transplant, industry veteran David Shepheard, by appointing him as the city’s first-ever film commissioner. Shepheard knows a thing or two about launching film offices, having done so in Abu Dhabi and the U.K., as well as running the film commission services for Film London.

The position was created by the Vancouver Economic Commission, which simultaneously announced the establishment of the Vancouver Film & Media Centre, dedicated to promotion, marketing, and industry advocacy.

Vancouver is the third-largest production hub in North America and the largest visual effects and animation center in the world. Work has been booming
there, thanks in part to the city’s tax incentives and Canada’s favorable exchange rate vis à vis the U.S. dollar. One of the key challenges going forward is maintaining that level of business, even in the face of possible exchange-rate fluctuations.

But for Shepheard, there’s another key ingredient to keeping production humming at a high level: maintaining human relationships. “The stronger production centers are ones that really tried to boost their profile and connections with industry decision-makers and people who commission [projects],” he says. “The incentives and exchange rate are key factors, absolutely, but I think we trade much more on the added benefits.”

Shepheard points to the success the Brits have had in drawing production across the pond. The U.K. tax credit is not the world’s highest, he explains, but London “trades on the quality of crews, on being able to get production done on time and with fantastic quality.”

Like London, says Shepheard, Vancouver has an infrastructure that can service the production cycle from start to finish. “You can get everything done here,” he says, “from creative to post to visual effects.”

Hollywood execs are well aware of the virtues of filming in Vancouver. In addition to incentives, these include being in the same time zone and relatively close to L.A.

That’s why Shepheard’s long-term strategy not only promotes the city as a destination for service productions, but also plans to grow local businesses to the level that they create their own projects — increasing the amount of homegrown IP in order to ensure that more money and investment is kept in Vancouver.

Developing co-ventures and co-productions is integral to that, he believes. “It’s key for us to be able to increase international collaborations through the networks that we have in, say, Asia or Europe,” he says, to “create content rooted in Vancouver that can be sold around the world.”

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