Sudbury scenery attracts productions, but funding provides the incentive
Update at 4:10 p.m. on March 1
Queen of The Night spent a traceable $2 million dollars in Greater Sudbury.
Even more money poured into the local economy by the cast and crew enjoying Sudbury and its attractions and amenities to the fullest.
On March 1, Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci announced $1 million of that money would be given back to the production, thanks to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC).
“Sudbury will be highlighted in the movie,” Bartolucci said.
More than 40 local people were hired to be part of the film's crew, allowing them to use their skills in their hometown.
It gave people like Christine Sola the chance to put her skills to use. As the film's Sudbury production associate, Sola was responsible for things like setting up a trip to the Children's Treatment Centre at Health Sciences North with the film's star Ryan Reynolds and his wife Blake Lively.
“It is very rewarding to be working consistently in film in Northern Ontario,” she said. “It is a testament to the rapidly growing industry.”
Along with full-time staff, more northerners were hired for “day” work by "Queen of The Night". Twenty-six of them were treated to one-on-one guidance from experienced crew members.
On top of that, five northern actors were hired for speaking roles, along with 150 background actors and six stand-ins for lead roles.
Background actors Richard Gaudette and Patrick Aubin of Sudbury, and Vince Groulx from Sault Ste. Marie, were watching the goings-on at the press conference while waiting to resume filming. They were dressed in orange jumpsuits and will portray inmates in the film.
They said they were there only for the one day, but that their scene was more extensive than they had first thought it would be.
For Gaudette and Aubin, Queen of The Night was one of their first opportunities to exercise their acting chops as background actors. Groulx has been in at least a dozen other films, including Be My Valentine, starring William Baldwin, which filmed in Sudbury last fall.
But if it wasn't for NOHFC funding, the production very well could have filmed in British Columbia instead of Sudbury.
Atom Egoyan, the film's director, was initially attracted to the mountainous west coast. But Simone Urdl, a producer on "Queen of The Night", had been in Sudbury for a previous project and she was able to sway him into exploring the Nickel City as an option.
“He was very impressed with the locations we found,” Urdl said. “That was the first reason for coming here.”
And while the local landscape fit Egoyan's vision, the availability of NOHFC funding cinched it. Without that assistance, it might not have been possible for Queen of The Night to film in Sudbury.
“I'm not sure we would have been able to come here,” Urdl said.
The producer said NOHFC has grown into its own as worthwhile program.
“(I'm impressed with) how well the NOHFC is working,” she said. “I think they're fulfilling their mandate more than expected.”
Besides finding good shooting locations and securing funding, Urdl said the enthusiasm coming from the locals on the crew made the filming process a treat.
“It's very refreshing,” she said. “It's a delightful place to shoot.”
In order to be eligible for funding, projects must meet a set criteria. Not only do they have to prove a direct return to the community, they must offer educational elements and assist in the development of the local industry.
The structure for funding projects “varies from film to film,” Bartolucci said, but is always divided “50-50," part loan that is to be returned and part grant.
He said loan repayment schemes are also “flexible,” shifting from project to project.
But it's a worthwhile investment, as film is becoming a “defining” part of the city, he said.
Folks from the film industry agree.
“The NOHFC made it possible for us,” Urdl said.
"Queen of The Night" stars Canadians Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Durand (Lost), as well as Rosario Dawson (Zookeeper) and, yet another Canadian, Bruce Greenwood (Flight).
It is a thriller which tells the story of a father trying to track down his kidnapped daughter.
A $1-million investment from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation in support of Atom Egoyan's film Queen of The Night ensured locals were able to work as crew members and production staff.
Today marked the final day for filming in Sudbury, and cast and crew will pack up and head to Niagara Falls to resume filming.
“An increasing number of film and television productions are choosing the Greater Sudbury area as their shooting locales,” said Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci, who made the announcement on set at the former St. Theresa school on Walford Road. “I am very pleased that the NOHFC is helping bring these productions to the North and providing our young people with valuable work experience in this industry.”
Egoyan joined Bartolucci for the announcement, and so did producer Simone Urdl.
“I am delighted to be back shooting in Northern Ontario and grateful for the continued support of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund,” Urdl said. “We are very happy with the beautiful locations and the skill level of our crew members from across Northern Ontario.”
Cast of Queen of the Night include Canadian actors Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Durand, as well as Rosario Dawson and Bruce Greenwood. It’s a thriller which tells the story of a father trying to track down his kidnapped daughter.