Caroline Wawzonek: Update on Film Projects
February 16, 2023
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Mr. Speaker, this time next week, the residents of Fort Simpson will be rolling out the red carpet for the fourth-annual Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ Film Festival. The festival is presented each year by the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation with funding and support from the GNWT and the NWT Film Commission.
It has become a yearly opportunity, in the Deh Cho, to showcase and celebrate the artistry and talent of local and territorial producers. Like the Yellowknife International Film Festival, it can be credited with encouraging creativity and collaboration and promoting traditional knowledge and language and cultural retention across our territory.
In all of this, Mr. Speaker, it is easy to forget that behind the scenes, film and media projects also provide a significant economic boost to the regions and communities in which they are staged; and can play a key part of our government’s commitment to increase economic diversification through non-extractive sectors and increase employment in small communities.
As we continue to implement the GNWT’s Film and Media Strategy and Action Plan, we are working to increase awareness among municipalities, communities and Indigenous governments of the economic benefits and opportunities that can be realized in partnership with the NWT film and media sector. Since this time last year, Mr. Speaker, over 25 projects have entered varying phases of development and production across the NWT.
Meanwhile location scouting by major production companies has also taken place in the Sahtu and Beaufort Delta.
Mr. Speaker, the GNWT’s Film Rebate Program helps to attract these larger productions to the territory by providing producers with a rebate on labour and expenditures. Since 2015, the program has supported 17 productions leveraging a direct spend of over $5 million into the NWT economy.
It is not just feature films or prime time television that benefit our territory economically. Countless, small independent producers are attracted to the NWT every year.
Mr. Speaker, we are acutely aware of the rising demand, from our territory’s community of passionate and dedicated film and media professionals, to invest more in the NWT’s film sector. ITI’s Film and Media Sector Funding under the Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development policy is consistently oversubscribed.
Beginning in 2021, the department piloted a Producers Incentive Program to better support the development of professional quality, commercial-ready projects for presentation to broadcasters, co-producers and other financiers.
Most notably, Jen Walden used the opportunity to advance her feature film, MOTHER, which was accepted into the 2022 Whistler Film Festival’s Power Pitch program, and is now in the financing stages.
Mr. Speaker, recognition of success warrants acknowledgment and a thank you to two primary industry stakeholders.
Western Arctic Moving Pictures is a member-based non-profit organization with a mission to produce, support, and promote independent film, video, and digital media arts made in the Northwest Territories, and to showcase it to audiences at home, across Canada, and internationally. They do so, in large part, by organizing the Yellowknife International Film Festival every year.
Secondly, the NWT Professional Media Association who, as a representative body of NWT film and media arts professionals, are committed to the professional development and growth of the NWT’s industry. Together, these organizations are strengthening the local film and production industry and helping create paths for future contributors and so I extend them a sincere thank you.
Finally I would like to acknowledge the funding support of Canada’s Northern Economic Development Agency: CanNor whose partnership allows us to invest as much as we do in the NWT film sector and to invest in the ongoing development and diversification of our NWT economy overall.
Mr. Speaker, the territory’s film sector plays an important role in educating audiences about NWT’s traditions and social issues, and celebrating the culture and heritage of northern places and peoples. The Government of the Northwest Territories will continue to promote and support made-in-the-NWT productions and build up our local industry as it continues to enrich the lives of residents and communities across the territory.