Film commission’s annual funding sparks passionate debate amongst RDN directors

Film commission’s annual funding sparks passionate debate amongst RDN directors
A film crew is pictured on Vancouver Island in this file photo.

Regional District of Nanaimo directors defeated a motion to cease funding the Vancouver Island North Film Commission following some passionate debate.

Electoral Area C Director Lauren Melanson’s motion to discontinue the $50,000 annual grant that the RDN has given to the commission, known as INFilm, since 2018 was only supported by three directors, including Area B Director Vanessa Craig.

A delegation for the non-profit argued the funding from the RDN as well as municipalities on other parts of Vancouver Island, totalling $127,000, helps attract big budget television shows and motion pictures to shoot in the RDN and elsewhere as well as supports skills development, jobs and benefits for local filmmakers.

“I respect the process you are going through,” Dan Brady with the Nanaimo Hospitality Association told the board prior to the vote. “I just don’t think this is your place to find the dollars. The benefits will speak for themselves.”

INFilm says their work has brought in over $200 million in direct economic impact to the mid- and north Island in the last 22 years. Four hundred-plus students, including 10 from Gabriola, have completed a micro-credential program for production assistant training developed by the commission, Brandon Lepine, INFilm’s regional production services manager, said.


While Melanson said the economic value of the film and television industry to the region is clear, the RDN “is not the appropriate venue for funding that” and that municipalities benefit more from productions filming locally. Meanwhile, community organizations that applied for grants this past round had to be “whittled down” to fit into the $70,000 budgeted for community grants. The 2024 proposed budget increases the community grants budget to $170,000.

Electoral Area A Director Jessica Stanley, who also voted to cut INFilm’s funding, said the matter raised the question of the purpose of collecting money from the public and should “only be used for public institutions and public amenities…. Let the market deal with itself.”

Directors who were in favour of keeping the funding argued the amount was minimal given the economic benefits to the region and that competition from other regions provincially and globally to bring in productions underscores the importance of INFilm’s work.

“This is kind of like voting to shut down your tourism association or chamber of commerce,” Nanaimo Director Leonard Krog said.

Craig raised that grants the RDN gives to INFilm and the Nanaimo Area Land Trust “seem to roll over year to year” while other non-profits must submit applications.

The last RDN board “explicitly rejected the concept of an economic development service,” Craig added, suggesting the RDN’s grants program might need to be re-examined.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

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