Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Students in the Near North District School Board have the opportunity to pursue film careers through a partnership the board has formed with Northern Ontario Film Studios. The schedule was officially announced in Powassan on Saturday where the movie The Christmas Farm is filming. David Anselmo, president of production at Hideaway Pictures, says the collaboration provides students with on-the-job training opportunities. By creating these opportunities, Anselmo says it gives young people a chance to stay in Northern Ontario as the movie studio continues to shoot films in the North. The idea of engaging young people with potential film training opportunities was floated by school board chairman Jay Aspin, who began speaking to Anslemo about it in October. “I can see it growing and developing,” Aspin said at the launch. “We want it to be strong and to benefit our students and the efforts of David Anselmo.” Aspin said there are students interested in a film career, either in front of or behind the camera, and others who may be interested in such a career in the future. Anselmo says the deal helps make filming in Northern Ontario more profitable because there’s now another way to create local talent. Anselmo says students who will be part of the program will have the opportunity to learn more about the industry locally, unlike he did when he entered the industry. “I’ve been to Asia and Europe to make movies,” Anselmo told local media at the launch. There just weren’t many opportunities for people like him to break into the local industry. That was until about 10 years ago when he moved back to Northern Ontario to help set up the film studio and started shooting films in various northern locations. Over the years, NOFS has been involved in the production of over 60 films in Northern Ontario, generating over 2,000 full-time equivalent jobs for northerners. The film industry will continue to grow, Anselmo says, so there is a need for more northern workers. He hopes the partnership with the Near North board will bring more “new faces to the industry”. Anselmo says the students are introduced to film sets and how to behave on sets. They specialize and learn the skills they need to do film-related work. “Being on a film set seems chaotic, but it’s very organized,” Anselmo said. “You have to understand the different departments and roles. They (students) then decide if they want to be in the industry and in which fields. Two of the students who are part of the film training program are Emma Gauthier-LeBlanc and her twin sister, Isabelle. The 17-year-olds were born one minute apart, with Emma being the older of the two. Both attend Chippewa High School and will soon be graduating from Grade 12. Emma says she was always curious about movies and acted a bit as a young girl. She recently got back into acting and says it’s the performance part that interests her. She thought getting into movies was an impossible task, but added “if you believe it, it will happen”. As for Isabelle, so far the exciting part of being on set is watching the actors perform on the monitor. She finds the process fascinating. Anselmo says The Christmas Farm will air closer to Christmas. The film supports several sectors of Powassan’s economy and also employs a number of local people. Nipissing MLA Vic Fedeli said at the launch there were about 70 men and women on set of The Christmas Farm and hundreds of extras representing Powassan and North Bay residents. Fedeli says the goal is to grow Ontario’s film industry to $5 billion from the current $2.8 billion. That means more people will be needed to make future films possible.
Although current estimates put the number of additional people needed to enter the industry at around 12,000, Fedeli thinks that number could be as high as 20,000. Anselmo also believes the film industry will grow in the province, particularly in the North, saying 15 years ago no one thought this was possible. As an example, Anselmo cites a $2 million turn-of-the-century town the movie studio built in Powassan in 2019. The “prop” is permanent, the only one of its kind in Ontario, has received a lot of attention in the industry and is regularly sought after as a filming location. Last year, Anselmo said the studio and Hideaway Pictures announced a $125 million deal that will bring more than 25 film and television projects to Northern Ontario over the next five years.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works at the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
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