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Banff wants to encourage filming to generate economic activity

“What this is saying is we’d be going after the larger production films, which has a knock-on effect of how many room nights they’d be staying,” said Jason Darrah, the Town of Banff’s director of communications and marketing.
Banff Town Hall 2
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – The Town of Banff plans to lower the daily permit fee for larger film productions in a bid to attract their business and generate economic activity for the national park townsite.

The proposed new fee schedule, which would set a daily base fee for companies filming for five consecutive days or more at $200 in 2021, forms part of the fees and charges bylaw going back to council for final decision next Monday, Dec. 7.

Officials say the commercial film permit fee per day of filming – one to four days – remains the same for 2021 at $263.

“What this is saying is we’d be going after the larger production films, which has a knock-on effect of how many room nights they’d be staying,” said Jason Darrah, the Town of Banff’s director of communications and marketing, during the Nov. 23 governance and finance committee meeting.

“The concept here would be just to lower the per day rate for filming for multiple days … it’s about incentivizing more longer filming days for larger production companies.”

The Town of Banff averages about 30 to 40 film permits a year.

Darrah said there was a spike in film permits in 2019, and in recent weeks a bump from zero to four or five requests for permits to film within the townsite.

“We do know that one production begets others, so there’s exposure for one Hallmark movie and then that leads to others later in the month,” he said.

“We continue to have large interest from Quebec-based production companies, so that’s an interesting point, as well as American,” he added.

Darrah said the Town works closely with Banff and Lake Louise Tourism, noting that many production companies filming inside the townsite are also filming in the surrounding national park.

“They are instrumental in working with us through the economic task force about opportunities for this type of recovery,” he said.

Councillor Chip Olver wanted to make sure COVID-19 safety protocols are in place for film production, or that COVID-19 case counts were low enough to have an activity like this in the community.

“I am just trying to grasp an understanding of some of that,” she said.

Darrah said the Town of Banff has developed guidelines for filming that are more stringent than the province of Alberta’s guidelines, noting Banff’s include the municipality’s mandatory mask policy because some filming may occur downtown.

He said there is an opportunity to stop filming if the situation warrants, noting that was done in spring at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when only essential services and businesses were open.

“We would obviously follow any guidelines that we implemented in the rest of the community, and we make sure productions companies are aware of those,” Darrah said.

“Absolutely, we wouldn’t be having any filming in places or in types if that jeopardized any health and safety of our community or our visitors.”

The overall fees and charges bylaw goes to council on Dec. 7.

Andrea Stuart, the Town of Banff’s manager of finance, said there were a few approaches used to determine fees and charges for 2021, including a 1.4 inflationary increase to recover costs where needed and keeping some program fees flat to help residents feeling the financial effects of COVID.

In addition, she said there is a reduction in some fees aimed at generating economic recovery.

“Any promotion of fee reduction to generate economic recovery would also be done when it’s deemed safe to be done within a COVID environment,” she said.

“Hopefully, we will be in a much different situation later in 2021 than we are today.”