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Film producers heap praise on North Bay’s movie and TV culture as province provides more money

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There will be more ‘lights, camera, action’ coming to the North Bay Area this year.

The North Bay region is often called Hollywood of the North. Veteran producer Joel Etienne has another name.

"The oasis in the desert,” he chuckled. “If you build it they will come. Now we want to keep it to ourselves."

Etienne and the team at Rising Suns Productions shoot one movie or TV series a year in the area. He's on his third production with more seasons, shows and films still in the pipeline.

"We showcase stories where the settings are all around world, whether it's New York City, Toronto, Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong,” he said.

“We've been able to film these stories out of North Bay and when you watch our television shows or movies, you would think you are actually in those physical settings."

Etienne just returned from Los Angeles where word has spread and production crews are raving about the films and TV shows shot in the north.

"You mention the words North Bay and they know where it is, what's going on and the quality of work," he said.

“We get fantastic work done in northern Ontario and in a real professional manner.”

The latest money from the Ontario government is more than $3.3 million through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) for eight film and TV projects to be shot in North Bay and its surrounding area.

"This is a huge economic driver for northern Ontario,” said Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli.

“Whether it’s in hotel or restaurant or rental business or all of the people who are behind the camera building the sets."

Film crews are relaying information to other directors, producers and colleagues about what northern Ontario has to offer when it comes to available sets and studios, driving more productions.

"You can do things here you just can't do down in the south,” said Vortex Media chief creative officer Jesse Ikeman.

“Our incentive as a company is to work with the local crew but also take advantage of the locations that you can't really shoot anywhere else in the country.”

In 2022, 20 high-end productions that generated more than $40 million in local spending were filmed. There were a total of 287 filming days at more than 120 locations.

"The filming industry during those two years we were in lockdown, our hospitality industry would have been in severe, severe bad shape if it hadn't been for our film industry,” North Bay Mayor Peter Chirico said.

Fedeli said the film and TV momentum is only growing and there are no plans to put the foot on the brake anytime soon when it comes to investment in the industry.

“The plan is to continue to see this grow,” said Fedeli.  

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