Hamilton poised to take leading role in Canada’s film industry

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Hamilton’s filming locations, talent pool and businesses demonstrate the current strength and future growth opportunities in the city’s film sector. In 2018 there was a 50 per cent hike in film permits from 2017 and 2019 permits continue to increase.

Hamilton has more than 550 film friendly locations and more than 200 distinct neighbourhoods. Within the city, location managers have access to an urban downtown or a smalltown feel, heritage buildings, waterfalls, industrial spaces, an airport, waterfront and lots of green spaces.

The city is already Canada’s third-largest film cluster and is home to 9,140 people who work in the film industry and 902 film businesses. Many have benefited from recent productions, including The Handmaid’s Tale, Umbrella Academy, Murdoch Mysteries, the Oscar-winning The Shape of Water, Designated Survivor, and It: Chapter Two.

“We are seeing an upswing in film permitting and more inquiries about establishing permanent operations in Hamilton. Tax credits also help lure productions to Canada, Ontario and to Hamilton,” said Debbie Spence, film business development consultant with the City’s Planning and Economic Development department.

“We are sending a strong message to the industry that we are ready for their business and that those investing in brick and mortar in Hamilton have a great opportunity to collaborate and shape the industry here.” There is a perception among some production companies that it’s too time consuming, costly or logistically challenging to shoot outside Toronto, but that will shift if studios set up in Hamilton, says Bob Monroe, an award-winning producer, director and visual effects supervisor who moved to Ancaster seven years ago.

“Once one studio is in place, all the shackles will be off at that point and there will be no shortage of TV shows and feature films being shot and produced in Hamilton.”

Aeon Studio Group
Aeon Studio Group plans to build a regional hub for film, TV and digital media production as part of a large mixed-use development on former industrial lands on Hamilton’s west harbour.

The proposed 200,000-square-foot facility will have six modern sound stages, post-production offices, animation, special effects, music and game design studios, crew training and back-lot shops, all catering to full-scale productions.

“Hamilton is undoubtedly the single best possible place in the province to build a big production hub,” said partner Jeff Anders.

ASG will have a concept plan ready to share in 2020 and is proceeding with a smaller-scale venture in a yet-undisclosed set of former industrial buildings while the studio district vision moves forward, says Anders.

A key step, he says, is an industry taskforce examining how to build a local talent pool that will feed a growing film infrastructure in the city.

Hamilton Film Studios
Hamilton Film Studios opened sound stages, production offices, gear rentals and an expendables store in a former transportation truck repair shop on Wellington Street North in January.

It has been booked ever since and Hamilton Film Studios has opened a second location in a historic furniture manufacturing plant in Dundas that is rented back-to-back for Netflix series.

“We have blown our business plan out of the water,” said partner Zach Zohr, one of three veteran film technicians who saw a need while shooting in the city.

Zohr has quit his production job and moved to Hamilton.

“Not to be cliché, but the possibilities seem endless right now.”

Skylight Steelworks
Skylight offers experiences including fashion shows, fundraisers, product launches, conferences and art installations in unique but underutilized places.

The New York City-based company has offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and now Hamilton at Skylight Steelworks. It is facilitating access for photographers and film producers to about 200 acres of the Stelco property, which features sprawling industrial buildings, machinery, and waterfront.

“As soon as we saw it, we fell in love with the site and the city. It’s authentic and real,” said Tiffany Aprile, vice president of business development.

Aprile says Skylight is now working on deeper creative development and activities at Stelco.

If you are looking to film in Hamilton or request any further information on filming in the area please connect with the City of Hamilton here – OR – visit Hamilton’s Economic Development’s Creative Industries Sector portal found here.