Written by Meredith MacLeod
Timing is everything in films. Getting it right is essential to delivering a punch line, executing a special effect, and releasing a movie at the magical time that will make it a hit at the box office.
What Hamilton offers in locations, talent, industry support, and infrastructure makes this the perfect time to invest in Hamilton’s thriving film sector. The momentum in the city is undeniable and the stars are aligning in the film industry. In fact, these are still early days in bringing together the infrastructure that will be the foundation of the next chapter in Hamilton’s film story.
As video streaming services drive soaring demand for content, Ontario offers a cost-efficient location for filming and production, made even more attractive by generous federal and provincial tax credits for film productions. According to Ontario Creates, more than 2,600 productions worth a combined $18 billion took advantage of a range of Ontario tax credits totalling more than $841 million in fiscal year 2018-2019.
The project value of made-in-Ontario productions have increased four-fold in five years.
But this booming success of Ontario’s film sector comes at a time when sound stages and production offices in the Greater Toronto Area are in ever-shorter supply. And with land and space in Toronto being prohibitively expensive, Hamilton is ready to step into a starring role.
Hamilton is already well known and appreciated as a welcoming, convenient and cost-effective location for film shoots of all sizes. With 550 film-friendly locations and more than 200 distinct neighbourhoods, location managers have ready access to an urban downtown or a small-town feel, tight streetscapes or rural roads, heritage buildings, waterfalls, industrial spaces, an airport, waterfront and lots of green spaces.
Hamilton can be anything it’s needed to be.
Hamilton is already Canada’s third-largest film cluster – home to 9,140 talented people who work in the film industry and 902 film-related 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.
The City is focused on providing a smooth, efficient and worry-free experience to film companies working in Hamilton. It’s also making it a strategic priority to demonstrate to the industry that it is ready for permanent investment. City officials have made it a priority to attract a major film studio to anchor the industry.
There is no doubt that those investing in brick and mortar film assets in Hamilton have an unprecedented opportunity to shape the industry.
The municipality has a dedicated business development consultant for creative industries within its Planning and
Economic Development department. The business development consultant works directly with film industry stakeholders to ensure they have all they need to bring investment and jobs to Hamilton.
The attraction of Hamilton as a film destination is clear. In 2018 there was a 50 per cent hike in film permits over 2017 and in 2019 permits remained steady with the number of productions rising.
And permanent investment is coming. 2019 began with the opening of Hamilton Film Studios in a former truck repair shop on Wellington Street North. Launched by three film technicians who were impressed by the city while on location, Hamilton Film Studios includes sound stages, production offices, gear rentals and an expendables store.
The venture has been so successful that it’s already expanded to a second location in Dundas.
In mid-2019, Aeon Studio Group (ASG) announced plans to build a 200,000-square-foot 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. It will feature 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.
ASG partner Jeff Anders called Hamilton “undoubtedly the single best possible place in the province to build a big production hub.”
And the timing is impeccable, too.
The time is now to film, expand or open your business in Hamilton.