Geneviève Ménard Hayles will lead the agency replacing the old Ottawa-Gatineau Film and Television Development Corp. She will be based at 80 Aberdeen St. in Little Italy, where Invest Ottawa - OCRI's new name - and the city are consolidating local programs aimed at bringing more business to the city.
Invest Ottawa CEO Bruce Lazenby said the film industry is a key growth sector that is collaborating more and more with other local knowledge-based industries.
"Invest Ottawa has been given the mandate to look more broadly than just high tech and to consider the broader economic development challenges and opportunities in Ottawa," Mr. Lazenby said in a statement to OBJ.
One of the key differences between the old OGFT and the new film development office is that the City of Gatineau will no longer be a partner alongside the National Capital Commission and the City of Ottawa.
While Ms. Ménard Hayles said she hopes Gatineau will still play a role, she noted the previous interprovincial arrangement proved challenging because Ontario and Quebec offer different tax credits to the industry.
Eligibility for these credits often depend on where a crew is working, and where the production company is based, said Ms. Ménard Hayles.
Such jurisdictional issues frustrate some in the industry who say an exclusive focus on Ottawa is impractical. Ottawa-born producer Michael Dobbin called it "a bit too tribal."
"Producers in this town have to put up with the Ottawa River functioning a bit like the Berlin Wall, which I think is a bit of an outdated notion," he said, adding local production companies will continue to hire crews from Gatineau and use locations there regardless of the changes made.
Others, meanwhile, say the new direction is long overdue.
"(OGFT) was never properly funded, and it was always complicated by the partnership of the three different jurisdictions," said Neil Bregman, president of Sound Venture Productions and an OGFT board member.
"It had a difficult time actually being functional and doing the job it was intended to do ... The best-case scenario was to have a properly funded film office situated within the City of Ottawa infrastructure that could actually promote the industry in this market."
The new film office will focus on bringing more attention and investment to the local industry, as well as on reassessing the resources available to production companies that work here.
Ms. Ménard Hayles said she wants the new commission to be the first point of contact for production companies wanting to use the capital as a backdrop for films. The office would then liaise with the appropriate jurisdiction for location permits, parking bans, and other needs.
High on the list of the commission's priorities is the construction of a digital media lab, something for which the industry has long been calling for.
According to Ms. Ménard Hayles, the city supports construction of an $8-million lab and will commit $1.5 million to the project. The remaining capital required will come from private investments.
The new space will be between 30,000 and 60,000 square feet in size, and will include a studio, sound stages and a telecollaboration suite.
Ms. Ménard Hayles could not provide a timeline for when the facility would be operational, or where it would be located.
Ms. Ménard Hayles, who has worked with film industry officials in Vancouver and England, and also served as executive director of the Ottawa Tulip Festival in 2011, said OGFT will be holding its last board meeting this month and that some members will sit on the new board to ensure continuity.