Growing Ottawa film productions benefit economy

When Jo Marr lived in Los Angeles, he knew better than to try and shoot a feature film on the street.

The neighbours were “so savvy,” he said, they’d start mowing the lawn, ruining the audio on purpose.

“I’ve got to go over there and pay them off to shut up,”  Marr said.

“That happens everyday.”

Not so much in Bells Corners and Stittsville.

“Everybody is curious and wants to help out,” he said.

Homegrown creative types are flocking to the region, where costs are cheaper and traffic is virtually non-existent when compared to Toronto.

And last year’s film production value — estimated at $83 million — has almost doubled from 2009.

“2010 was a banner year for us,” said Ottawa-Gatineau Film and Television Development Corporation general manager Roch Brunette.

Roughly $23 million was spent directly in the region — half of which went to salaries.

That’s modest compared to major cities, but it’s more than some U.S. states, Brunette said.

“We’re not competing with Toronto or Montreal here,” he said.

There were more than 600 recorded shooting days.

And the quality is high while the budgets remain low.

“You look at these films, holy cow, they look like a $1 million production,” said Brunette.

Canadian actor Adam Beach — of Big Love, Law & Order: SVU, and Flags of our Fathers fame– is currently working on a project in Osgoode with director Dan Forgues.

Brunette said a big TV series, which is still top-secret, could be signing on to shoot in town.

A pilot already was filmed here and “we opened doors for them that they weren’t expecting,” said Brunette.

With Ottawa now on the radar of producers, Brunette is always scouting locations.

He’s currently looking for a pond with a waterfall, “something that’s very greenish.”

Speaking of green, Marr never thought he’d hire his former drama teacher.

“She was always an inspiration to me,” Marr said about Carole Hay, who taught him at D.A. Moodie Intermediate School.

Marr left for Hollywood in 1988.

Four years later he scored a role in Sneakers with Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, and Sidney Poitier.

Marr’s producing credits include Night Thing, Stag Night, Neo Ned, Drop Dead Sexy, and Blink of an Eye.

Back at home, his latest dramedy, titled “Going Thru a Thing,” was shot in three weeks last summer.

It’s about a dad who’s a screw-up, as seen through the eyes of his 13-year-old daughter.

Starring local teen, Aelah Thomson, the soundtrack features home-grown musicians.

Shooting his first feature in Ottawa was “logistically-friendly” in every way.

“Even my mom made lunch for the crew,” Marr said.

The movie is being screened at the new Centrepointe Studio on May 31 at 7 p.m.


Productions from Local Companies

Local 2011 productions

  • Canadian-Danish horror flick EDDIE (Quiet Revolution Pictures)
  • Secrets From Her Past (Sound Venture)
  • A Violent State (Parktown Productions)

Local 2011 series

  • Motel Monstre (22-part youth series, Slalom Productions)
  • Mouki 3 (children’s series, Nish Media)

Local 2010 series:

  • All for Nothing (Mountain Road Productions)
  • Prime Radicals (GAPC)
  • Moitié, moitié (Slalom Productions)

Local 2010 movies:

  • House at the End of the Street, Sacrifice, The Day (ZedFilmworks)
  • La Sacrée (Balestra Productions)
  • Another Man’s Wife, The Stepson and Metal Tornado (Sound Venture Productions)

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