***This six-part series was originally created as a feature length article at Langara College’s journalism department. The series shows the faces of some of B.C.’s film industry workers who are affected by the recent decline in jobs. Some of them are involved in the #SaveBCFilm movement, others are relocating or reinventing themselves professionally. But all are passionate film lovers, and great people.***
Angela, a red-haired woman in her early forties paces back and forth, alone in a brightly lit room. Her body is tense and she looks around her like an animal trapped in a cage. Angela sees the cameras, which are hanging discreetly in the corners of the room and shouts furiously at the large mirror: “Why aren’t you blaming her?”
The door opens, and a young woman enters.
“Hi Angela, I am your nurse. Could you please sit down so we can talk about what just happened in the lounge?”
Angela snaps back. “Why am I getting blamed? That crazy lady in the TV room started it!”
The young woman calmly goes on to explain that this psychiatric ward is a place where everyone needs to adhere to the rules for the sake of patient safety.
“Please, let’s sit down and discuss what went wrong, Angela,” the nurse says.
That’s when Angela can’t take it any longer. She swiftly rises and throws her chair into the white wall, leaving a visible dent. “That’s it, I’m out of here,” she shouts, slamming the door and leaving a baffled nurse behind her.
“Excellent,” says the Douglas College instructor, who catches up with actor Lisa Bunting in the hallway. “Sorry about the wall, it won’t happen again,” says Bunting. “No worries,” the instructor chuckles. “Please come into the classroom for debriefing. We want to discuss with the student how her therapeutic skills could have been stronger.”
Acting outside of a theatre and film environment
Scenes like this are routine for Bunting, 53, a New Westminster actor who has to juggle up to eight freelance jobs at a time since the bottom fell out of the industry three years ago. She and her husband, an actor as well, almost lost their house in the wake of the U.S. recession. On top of this, both actors are getting older. “Realistically, this is a male-driven, youth-driven industry and I am a woman who’s past middle-age, so that is just what it is,” Bunting says.
Bunting drives once a week to Douglas College in Coquitlam to role-play patients with mental health or substance abuse issues for psychiatric nursing students.
A character like Angela, whose description includes schizo-affective disorder and an abusive relationship with a same-sex partner, is one of the evolving characters on Bunting’s spectrum. She plays Angela in different development stages for at least four weeks.
“It’s incredibly rewarding, but it’s hard on my body,” says Bunting. “I’ll come home and take a two-hour nap, because otherwise, if I continue the confused thinking that I’ve been doing at Douglas College, then by the end of the day, I am not much good to my family.”
Bunting, who says acting is all she ever wanted to do, is pleased when she sees her hard work come to fruition. When she recently visited a family member in a psychiatric ward, she felt proud that the best nurses were former Douglas College students, whom she had worked with.
“I can honestly tell you that the work I do at Douglas is the best acting training I’ve ever had in my life,” said Bunting. “The reason I say that is that the work isn’t about me. It’s about serving students, so my ego is not involved. As a result, I have become emotionally fearless and I am willing to go anywhere on the emotional spectrum.”
The rise of #SaveBCFilm
In recent months, the B.C. film industry has been making headlines. The powerful Twitter hashtag #SaveBCFilm was created when hundreds of posts by critical B.C. film industry workers got deleted from Christy Clark’s Facebook page on January 12. Film industry workers David Markowitz and Wayne Bennett seized the opportunity to transform the small special interest group Save BC Film into a grassroots movement, with over 7,800 Facebook followers.
An ad-hoc town hall meeting for industry workers organized by Peter Leitch, who owns North Shore Studios and chairs the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of B.C. (MPPIA) in February grew to a rally with more than 4,000 attendants and resulted in a separate movement called We Create BC.
Both movements have the same goal: To lobby the provincial government for more tax incentives. On March 27, they brought a petition signed by over 30,000 industry workers and supporters to the offices of Christy Clark and Adrian Dix, calling for more government support.
The B.C. film industry sustains more than 25,000 jobs all over the province, with a total of $1.2 billion in production spent in B.C. in 2012, an increase of 2.3 per cent since 2011.
However, according to data sourced from a major payroll company, the numbers for the first 14 weeks of 2013 are about 32 per cent lower than usual, confirmed the MPPIA.
The industry attributes this loss to better financial incentives in other provinces, most notably Ontario.
The tax credit in B.C. is 33 per cent of labour spending on foreign productions and 35 per cent of labour spending on domestic productions, whereas in Ontario and Quebec, tax credits are 25 per cent of all eligible production spending, goods and labour.
B.C. lost 3,500 direct and spin-off film and television production jobs during the year that ended March 31, 2012, with the total number falling from 39,500 to 36,000, according to the Profile 2012 report by the Canadian Media Production Association.
In the same period, Ontario’s industry gained nearly 8,000 jobs, jumping from 43,400 to 51,300.
Next week: third assistant director and insurance broker Louisa Phung.
Reported by Katja De Bock