Should I: a) stay b) go c) other
March 10, 2009 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I've been presented with the possibility of moving to Vancouver. I'm aware of the general pros and cons of moving there (weed, rain, etc). I'm specifically curious about career options in the film industry as compared to here in Toronto.

I haven't been able to find current coverage or discussion of the B.C. film industry, and the jobs on Mandy and Craigslist seem to be negligible. Is there somewhere else I should be looking? Or is the industry there simply that much smaller? Would a person looking to gain entry-level experience have a better shot in Vancouver or in Toronto?

Let's assume that either way I would give up my full-time job and that I would have enough resources available to finance moving and/or an extended period of underemployment. I do have some tangential experience within the industry and am certain that this is where I'd like to work, specifically on the business side as opposed to creative or production-side roles. A third "whammy" option would be carrying on with stupid day jobs in hopes of saving for a future move to L.A., if no hope remains for the Canadian industry at all.

Should you answer, I'm curious to know if your advice comes from the standpoint of someone currently in the film industry, formerly in it, etc, or any links to resources you might be aware of. If you'd like to weigh in anon, please contact me via memail or throwaway email: vanshould [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks everyone!
posted by SassHat to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Disclaimer -- the only thing I know about the film industry comes from picking out Vancouver landmarks in TV and movies. That being said, Vancouver, the original "Hollywoood North" (Toronto stole the name from us) is second in television production, behind only LA. We're third in movie production, behind LA and NY. So I'd think, based on those facts alone, it would be better here than when compared directly to Toronto.

Source: Wikipedia.
posted by cgg at 11:17 AM on March 10, 2009

It really depends what you want to do. Vancouver is a service center for film, so if you are looking towards eventually becoming a producer or doing creative work (directing or writing), you would want to stay in Toronto (the creative and production capital of Canada) or move directly to LA.

If you're more interested in the technical aspects of film (rigging, lighting, etc), then Vancouver would be a better bet. However, one of the reasons why these jobs are not mentioned on Craigslist is because the sector is unionized.

Sometimes it's just a matter of looking before you make the leap. Why not contact a few Lower Mainland film studios to find out what the job situation is like?

Emily Carr has a film school, and both UBC and SFU have a really nifty campus at Great Northern Way, but the emphasis is on digital creation. Still, you could always call them up to see what's going on in the film industry.

SIGGRAPH (Vancouver) is another useful contact. New Media BC is also a useful contact.

But I would try connecting with the BC film commission, a couple of the studios and profs at Emily Carr and SFU first.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:19 PM on March 10, 2009

I've done extra work and I have friends in the industry.

Vancouver is definitely the biggest market in Canada, by far. But, like any big market, there's a lot of other fish to compete against. So if you're a new player, don't expect it to be easy. If you've got a bit of a resume, then it's not impossible to crack the market. Once you're in, then the ladder that you can climb is definitely much higher than in Toronto or Montreal. It's up to you to climb it.

That said, the industry is hurting. Badly. First it got dinged last year when the USD and CAD were at par. Now the recession. Some people say that entertainment is recession proof, but my friends in the industry are finding that they ARE affected. I think the main problem is that financing is much harder to come by, so projects take a lot longer to get the greenlight. Not to say that there aren't niche opportunities. Like most of the arts in Canada, many projects rely on public funding (from the NFB, Telefilm, etc) and are pretty stable.
posted by randomstriker at 12:27 PM on March 10, 2009

Are you familiar with the fairly rigid restrictions that Canada has on employment for non-citizens?
Essentially, you have to have a job offer before you can get a work permit, and your employer has to certify there's not any Canadian citizen able to do the work.

Check the section on temporary work permits.

Start here.
posted by reflecked at 5:09 PM on March 10, 2009

My linkyness failed.
posted by reflecked at 5:09 PM on March 10, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks reflecked, I am actually a Canadian citizen currently working in Toronto, so I'm ok on that front. As a bonus, I am also a US citizen, should I need to relocate there for work purposes.
posted by SassHat at 6:16 PM on March 10, 2009

Welcome... Your profile is pretty barren, so I made a guess.

I have friends who've worked the industry in Vancouver for years. Many of them... MANY.. are now not working.

You could get lucky, for sure. I wish you all the best.
posted by reflecked at 6:32 PM on March 10, 2009

What do you mean when you say you want to work on the "business side"? You mean in marketing and distribution? Or accounting? Or do you mean producing?
posted by Bobby Bittman at 7:18 PM on March 10, 2009

Response by poster: Bobby - business side, as in, not creative and not a unionized grip/gaffer/teamster/etc. Not accounting (as I'm not an accountant) and not in marketing. Working in a production office, working for a producer, office PA jobs, all would be fine. I am also interested in distribution but am reasonably underqualified to just jump down my friendly local distributors/acquisitions dudes/ladies and demand a job. Most of the ones that I know have told me to jump in and get more direct industry experience before I try to do that.
posted by SassHat at 9:08 PM on March 10, 2009

Right. So what you want to tell people is that you're looking for a job in the production office. You'll start out as an office PA and work your way up to Assistant Production Co-ordinator and then to Production Co-ordinator and then to Production Manager, if that's what you're still interested in after all that time.

Both of these cities would serve your purposes. Vancouver does more television and Toronto does more feature film. It's been a few years since I was working on crews, and I know times are tighter now than they have been in the past, but I would suggest that the same amount of hustle applied in either city would eventually lead to a job.

I think the deciding factor might be where you'd prefer to live.

MeMail me if you want more details about the Toronto scene, I'll be glad to tell you what I can.
posted by Bobby Bittman at 9:35 PM on March 10, 2009

I have a friend in the film industry in Vancouver so I sent your question to her. Here is her response:

This is only a personal opinion from my experience as a Script Supervisor in Vancouver.
Vancouver's film industry mostly serves as a service industry to Hollywood and other independent mostly American movies. Most people who work in the film industry work in the production and post production serving the same industry. There's a couple of companies that are involved in the more business area: Omni, Brightlight Pictures, Insight Production.

I am not sure it it would be worth giving up a good full time job for the adventure of seeing what would happen, but if this person is young and wants to go for it. I say, Why not? If you stick to it, it eventually becomes your life. I do think though, that in terms of Canadian Film Industry Toronto has probably a lot more choices since most of the Canadian productions are based in Toronto. I do not know what this man's experience is, but if he doesn't have any, he may want to check the Producer's program at the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto. I do also know that some of the funding agencies like BC Film have internships for different production companies.

I hope this helps in some way
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:55 PM on March 10, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Feel free to add more if you've got it.
posted by SassHat at 6:56 AM on March 11, 2009

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