By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Chatham-Kent’s fledgling film industry is ready to soar.
That’s because a new Filming Locally in Chatham-Kent (FLICK) office is opening at the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre, ready to welcome film and television producers from around the world.
According to Vancouver-based producer Garrett VanDusen, the municipality’s small-town charm and historic buildings create the perfect backdrop for the industry.
“The look and feel of Chatham-Kent is untainted,” VanDusen said, noting the different communities throughout the municipality all offer the feel of a “quaint little town.”
VanDusen, who grew up in Chatham and graduated from Chatham Collegiate Institute, has been working with Doug Robbins at the municipality’s economic development branch to get the venture off the ground.
FLICK will serve as a one-stop shop for producers scoping out film sets.
“Everything will be ready at the tip of their fingertips with all the resources,” VanDusen explained, making it an attractive and less labour-intensive prospect for producers looking for sites.
VanDusen said that when he first reached out to Chatham-Kent, there was no municipal film liaison, but thanks to FLICK that’s changed. He said it makes a big difference to producers to have resources at the ready – something a lot of other municipalities are failing to do.
A producer for the past eight years, VanDusen is well respected in the field and was recently nominated by Lambton College for an Ontario Premier’s Award for Creative Arts and Design.
Jamie Rainbird, manager of economic development for C-K, said supporting the promotion of film and television locally is a way to bring revenue to the municipality.
“Obviously, we want to support and promote arts and culture,” Rainbird said. “Sometimes we fail to recognize the high economic benefits these productions bring,” he added. “We’re always looking at growing and diversifying our economy and this is a potential new source for Chatham-Kent and another piece in the puzzle.”
The film industry – Ontario vies for the title of Hollywood North – brings significant investment. Ontario Creates, an arm of the provincial government, said it supported 419 productions in 2022 that contributed roughly $3.15 billion to the economy.
VanDusen, who often works on Hallmark movie productions, said budgets usually range from $500,000 to $1 million per film, bringing dollars to the hospitality industry, as well as hiring local employees and actors.
VanDusen just wrapped up filming a movie in Panama, as well as one in Windsor-Essex, and he’s hoping to create a Christmas-themed production here in Chatham-Kent later this year.
“Film is such a new thing in Chatham-Kent; some people don’t take it seriously,” he said. “But now the community is coming together. My goal is to bring what I know best to my hometown,” VanDusen said. “Film is an amazing career and my main focus is to try and inspire youth.
“I’m excited to see what the municipality is about to become.”
However, producer Daniel Turres doesn’t need convincing about the possibilities. The founder of Pageman Productions is sold on what Chatham-Kent has to offer.
So much so, the director/producer moved to Chatham from London just last week.
“That’s how much I believe my film career is going to flourish in Chatham-Kent,” Turres told The Voice. “So far my experience here has been absolutely positive.
“Film is growing exponentially,” he added. “Everything is a battle in the GTA…this is like a no-brainer. In Chatham-Kent I love the hospitality and sense of closeness…it’s very wholesome and refreshing.”
Producing films since 2018, Turres’ horror film ‘Here For Blood’ is currently making the international film fest rounds and he has another new movie about to be released.
On July 14, his company is hosting a Red Carpet gala event outlining Chatham Film’s Investment Showcase at the Chatham Capitol Theatre.
More details about the local film industry are expected to be unveiled at the event. Those interested are asked to RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org.