Catching up with Bob D’Eith
A Q&A with BC’s Parliamentary Secretary for Arts and Film
After 25 years of working in creative industries — as an entertainment lawyer, a musician, the executive director of Music BC, the list goes on — Bob D’Eith has landed exactly where he needs to be to help Canadian content get made: as the Parliamentary Secretary for Arts and Film. We caught up with D’Eith to talk about how the industry is making strides in environmental impact, equity building, and elevating home-grown stories.
BC HAS A BOOMING PRODUCTION INDUSTRY, WHICH IS CREATING GREAT JOBS AND DRIVING INVESTMENT IN IMPORTANT INFRASTRUCTURE. IT’S ALSO NO SECRET THAT THE MAJORITY OF THE PRODUCTION VOLUME IN THE PROVINCE IS FOREIGN LOCATION AND SERVICE WORK, WHICH SOME WOULD SAY HAS COME AT THE EXPENSE OF CANADIAN PRODUCTIONS. HOW DO YOU ENSURE THAT THERE’S ROOM FOR CANADIAN PRODUCTIONS AND THE SERVICE SIDE OF THE BUSINESS?
Bob D’Eith: It’s exciting because British Columbia has the largest motion picture hub in Canada. It’s the third largest in North America, and that’s primarily driven through service work. It’s a huge economic driver for the province. This has allowed us to have a great amount of training for talent and infrastructure in British Columbia, which you would think would be great for domestic producers.
Frankly, we have a lot of work to do on the domestic production side, and balance the fact that we may have 80,000 to 90,000 people working in the sector. But what does that mean? Does it mean we’re telling our stories?
Many years ago, there were cuts made to BC film in terms of domestic production development. A few years ago, we actually brought back a fund that deals with domestic film production. In order for domestic film producers to get off the ground, you need to do that basic development work. We put $3 million into Creative BC for leadership resources and programs, namely, Creative BC’s Reel Focus Program for project development, documentary and factual development, and production, in order to get those properties to the next level. I’m confident that the Reel Focus Program will help us to leverage that federal funding so that we can attract partnerships, international co-productions and the things that we need.
A lot of work has to be done, but we’re looking forward to growing domestic film production in the province.
YOU BRING DEEP EXPERIENCE FROM ACROSS THE CREATIVE SECTOR TO YOUR CURRENT ROLE. DO YOU HAVE ANY INSIGHTS ON HOW OTHER CULTURAL SECTORS INTERSECT TO SUPPORT THE FILM INDUSTRY AT LARGE?
BD: I would say that, about a decade ago, a lot of the creative associations worked in silos. We had different agencies dealing with different things. I think the advent of Creative BC has really helped to coalesce the creative industries as a group. As you know, there are so many crossovers: there’s music for film, writing books and then scriptwriting, and digital intersects everything.
It’s just spectacular what’s going on with British Columbia. There’s a great amount of potential in different sectors working together. I’ve gone from running Music BC to working as the Parliamentary Secretary for Arts and Film, so a lot of those relationships were already there, and that really helped during the pandemic to be able to reach out quickly to everybody.
That trust and those relationships were already there, and we were able to roll up our sleeves and work together.
AS YOU ARE AWARE, BC IS HOME TO A GREAT NUMBER OF TALENTED INDIGENOUS CREATORS, WHO ARE DOING SOME VERY IMPRESSIVE WORK. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE WORK OF YOUR GOVERNMENT AND THIS MINISTRY AS IT RELATES TO SUPPORTING AND ELEVATING INDIGENOUS VOICES?
BD: There have been a lot of exciting initiatives — for example, there’s direct support toward the Rogers Indigenous Film Fund, which is providing $1 million over four years to support Indigenous screen content.
Creative BC has contributed funding for 25 reserved seats for First Nation participants at the Okanagan Film Fundamentals TAKE 2 film bootcamp, and that’s a great opportunity for hands-on training. In addition to that, the Knowledge Network has committed to commission at least 25 per cent original documentary features and shorts from BC independent Indigenous producers.
I was at the opening night of VIFF with 15,000 other people. The opening film was Marie Clements’ Bones of Crows, and it was so powerful. The legacy of that film is not just about telling the incredible story of a family from the 1800s and onward, and residential schools — it’s also training a whole new generation of Indigenous crew and actors in a very high-level production.
Everybody is really excited about this work, and the main thing I’ve found is that we’re moving from something transactional to actually transformative; something that is real and authentic. You really saw that with Bones of Crows. Doing something the right way for the right reasons.
THIS GOVERNMENT HAS PUT GREAT EMPHASIS ON WORKING CLOSELY WITH INDUSTRY TO IMPROVE OPPORTUNITIES FOR EQUITY-SEEKING AND SOVEREIGNTYSEEKING INDIVIDUALS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW PROGRAMS — SUCH AS THE CREATIVE BC INITIATIVE, CREATIVE PATHWAYS — ARE HELPING TO PROPEL THIS IMPORTANT WORK?
BD: Anybody who has ever tried to get into the film industry knows it’s not easy. There are a lot of barriers, it’s about who you know — things like that.
There are streams for new entrants within Creative Pathways for groups that have been systematically excluded from communities. It is a platform to allow industry to collaborate with diversity and inclusion in their workforce. For example, there are free online info sessions with industry leaders. You have these group meetings for hires and underrepresented groups. There’s a real commitment to all this work. Of course, there’s a lot of work to do, but the industry seems to be really open to making sure this work is successful.
THE PROVINCE OF BC HAS LONG BEEN A LEADER IN DRIVING ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY. IN THE NATIONAL PRODUCTION INDUSTRY, REEL GREEN, WHICH PROMOTES SUSTAINABLE MEDIA PRODUCTION, BEGAN IN BC. HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK SUSTAINABILITY SHOULD BE FOR THE PRODUCTION SECTOR MOVING FORWARD?
BD: We’re already seeing that in action. The economic plan recently recognized the ongoing support for the film and television industry and really is trumpeting it as one of the greenest in the world. We recognize the industry is doing some great stuff.
For example, I was just on a tour at Vancouver Film Studios. They’ve got solar panels, and they’re electrifying a lot of the studios with LED lighting, which is way more efficient and less costly. Instead of having eight generators, they’re now using two generators, because they’re being used more efficiently. A lot of work is being done in this area.
I know that Martini Film Studios in Langley is working towards a new zero-carbon studio, which is really cool. And the City of Vancouver has a network of clean-power kiosks, so that productions can just plug in.
Looking at recycling on film sets, and repurposing instead of waste, a lot of the major studios are pushing this as well. I think this is one of those things where this industry is showing leadership in climate change. Do we have to do more? Of course, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.