Views / Ottawa / Backstage Pass Ottawa

Local filmmaking scene alive, thriving and rolling

We may not see a ton of big-budget movies shooting here in Ottawa, but local filmmaker and founder of production company Treepot Media, Jith Paul, says that hasn’t stopped the independent scene from thriving.

“The indie film industry in Ottawa is kind of booming at the moment and I think a lot of that has to do with digital SLR cameras being more affordable for indie filmmakers,” Paul said.

And it’s not just local filmmakers who are embracing new technology — a lot of theatres now have digital projectors, making movie screenings more affordable and accessible.

“In the past, you would have to pay for a 35mm print and that was expensive, especially for someone just starting out,” Paul said. “You can show something on a TV at home to your family and friends but there is something different about actually going to a real theatre and seeing your stuff up on a real screen.”

The City of Ottawa is also helping, he said.

“The city has set up a film office that helps with permits and things like that so you can actually get insurance and shoot on NCC property or something like that, with enough given notice, and it’s free.”

Even though the film industries in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver may seem more appealing for Canadian filmmakers, Paul said there are perks to staying here in the capital.

“In Ottawa, it’s very rare that you have to pay for a location. The city will even let you close down a street for free. We’re kind of spoiled to have that because, if you try to shoot like that in Toronto or Montreal, that would never happen,” he says.

For those just starting out, there are plenty of local resources for filmmakers hoping to get a bit of a kick start. Paul recommends starting with SAW Video, an artist-run centre committed to supporting independent video and media arts.

“They have a lot of really good gear and workshops and membership, especially for a student, is really cheap. They also have a theatre where you can show your stuff,” says Paul. “It’s a cool way to get plugged in.”

Editor's Note: Jith Paul clarifies in the comment section below that he did not say insurance is free, nor that Invest Ottawa provides insurance - it does not. Stephanie Davy, coordinator, Film, Television and Digital Media at Invest Ottawa further clarifies, telling Metro "We do not supply any type of insurance for filmmakers. Filmmakers must obtain production insurance from an insurance provider if they’re looking to film in Ottawa and the region; there is a cost for this which they pay to the insurance company, not Invest Ottawa." In regard to street closures Davies said in an email: "In my experience, it depends on what the street closure entails. We normally facilitate lane closures (and not complete road closures), in which case, there is no fee for the lane closure itself, but may have fees involved if Paid Duties Officers are required, or for other services, such as barricades and signage. For a complete road closure, there would be additional costs (e.g. rerouting OC Transpo, etc.)."

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