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Film industry booming again in Delta

Impacts are both positive & negative say local businesses as city provides more support
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacting his catering business, Russell Pohl is still getting plenty of inquiries these days – they just happen be from film location managers.

Movie and television productions have taken Metro Vancouver by storm since health restrictions were eased last summer following a significant dark period.

Pohl operates Mr. Mom’s Catering World out of East Delta Hall where he has been unable to host weddings, banquets and other functions for nearly a year.

The historic building has been utilized on a number occasions by a major Warner Brothers production slated to make its television premiere later this month.

“We have been very blessed because as you can imagine with COVID our catering piece of business has been up the creek without a paddle. It’s been very positive for us,” said Pohl.

Along the way Pohl has learned plenty about the film industry and has even reached out for the necessary support to ensure his business is being fairly compensated and his best interests are being looked after.

“Part of the blessing for us is I employ people that do or have been in the industry and we are kind of their second job, so we got a lot of inside info there,” Pohl added. “The truth is I can imagine it can be a very frustrating system and process because every production and every company are different. Our personal overall experience has been amazing because, again, we kind of walked into it with eyes wide open and the beginners’ knowledge behind us. The companies that we work with have been very good to us. The key is to educate yourself.

“There are companies out there that you can hire that will actually be your liaison and your onsite guy, so you are not dealing with any of that silliness. I recommend any business or private resident to spend the extra money and get the help.”

Not every business is in awe of the bright lights

Windshield repair and replacement is a significant part of Apex Glass’ business in Ladner Village. That means vehicles need access to the repair shop throughout the day. When owner Megan Kureluk learned a Netflix production was going to film steps from her location, she was frustrated the usual polling of impacted businesses didn’t take place. It is required to receive a filming permit from the City of Delta.

“I received a letter the week of Jan. 18 of what they were proposing and it said the permit was contingent on a poll to be put to business people. I was never polled. The letter was actually the polling and the reason they couldn’t do a traditional poll with signatures was because of COVID,” said Kureluk. “When you think about it, it’s hilarious. They can’t send somebody around with a poll but they can send two people around to silence my concerns.”

Kureluk added she wasn’t offered any compensation but says her concern has more to do with the inconvenience, never mind it was taking place amid a pandemic.

“It’s not even a matter of the compensation. It’s a matter of the lying from the production companies and the disrespect from Delta to its permanent business people that is super-duper frustrating,” she said.

Impacted even more by the production was Heritage House Interiors which is next door to the Dragonfly Gallery where much of the filming took place.

Owner Jamie Fraser has dealt with location managers over the years, first when the furniture store was located on 48th Avenue in the heart of the village before heading west to Chisholm Street.

After saying no to the initial offer, he eventually came to an agreement on compensation for the loss of business with the Netflix production.

“COVID is a pretty weak excuse for not doing a poll. It is one of those things where they think the less information is better so we don’t get the full picture,” said Fraser.

“We have had the movie companies out here before. It is an inconvenience for sure and it definitely effects our business. Eighty to ninety percent of the time they are fine. It just depends on the construction crew (for set building). These guys kind of sprung it on us at the last minute, but I think it’s of the nature of the COVID times.”

Meetings with city did lead to improvements

It was through a series of meetings with business and home owners that the City of Delta made several key provisions for filming in Ladner Village and beyond.

Topping the list is Angusfilm, a film site supervision company, retained by the city to provide a film liaison officer to be present during onsite shooting and assist with business owners and residents’ concerns.

Other improvements have included:

* A minimum seven days between filming and special events in Ladner Village.

* Noise variances for filming in residential areas only be granted in cases that achieve the support of all immediate neighbours.

* A policy that limits the issuance of filming permits to productions that have continued ongoing concerns.

“We are really trying to work with the community to make this a better experience for everyone,” said Delta’s Director of Engineering Steven Lan. “I think the feedback I have got has been pretty good. We will try to continue to address everyone’s concerns, but there is a certain limit to all of this as well.

“The (financial) negotiations are always with the film company directly. There are various means through Creative BC in terms of if there is a dispute.”

Ladner Business Association president Jill McKnight has noticed the improvements since the City of Delta teamed up with Creative BC to host a public meeting on the film industry a year ago at Harris Barn.

“One of the significant things to come out of those meetings that led up to Harris Barn was the recommendation that a film liaison company be brought in. I do feel the city has made a great choice with Angusfilms,” said McKnight. “He came out one day and I took him around to introduce him to number of business owners, just to start to build relationships with people. There is going to be ups and downs and it was important to him to get to know them and understand what they face with their business. Each is going to be different.

“I think people do really come here with the intention of wanting to work together. There is definitely an understanding that the businesses are here all year along and film companies are guests.”

Compensation guidelines for loss of business

Don’t have dollar signs in your eyes if a production company wants to use your store front.

For some local businesses that have been greatly impacted by the COVID health restrictions, a movie shoot can be a welcome relief. However, under normal circumstances the compensation should add up to what typical sales would have been during the production period.

Creative BC has come up with a form that can provide perimeters to the negotiation process between the production companies and businesses.

“Compensation is always a challenging thing. Each of us know our business and what I can speak to,” said McKnight who has had productions impact her South Coast Casuals store including ABC’s crime drama Big Sky in December.

“The Creative BC Loss of Business Compensation Form is a tool to start a conversation. You look at your previous four weeks of that concurrent day’s average of gross profit margin and that is the compensation. If you make 100 or 200 bucks extra that’s great but it should ultimately be a net zero process.”

McKnight adds other intangibles have to be factored into the compensation too such as the time of year. Big Sky’s December ask was not only during the peak holiday shopping season but McKnight had to remove all Christmas decorations then pay her merchandiser a higher rate to put them back up again.

“If a business is prepared to document and show it I will be the first person in line to say that is what they should be compensated but you have the documentation to support it,” she added.