Producer Profile: Jonathan Bronfman of JoBro Productions
Every month, CION aims to profile a producer who has shot in Northern Ontario. We get their input about the state of the industry and the Northern amenities, services and locations they took advantage of for their films.
When Delia’s Gone kicked off production in October 2020, producer Jonathan Bronfman of JoBro Productions wasn’t able to physically join the team in North Bay. His wife had just given birth to a baby girl, but having shot many, many films in Northern Ontario over the years, Bronfman knew the landscape. Without a doubt he had full confidence the location (not to mention the local crews) would provide exactly what was needed in order to make the film he, fellow producers, and writer-director Robert Budreau had envisioned.
Delia’s Gone stars Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), Travis Fimmel (Vikings), and the Black Academy co-founder Stephan James (Homecoming). The high-profile project marks the highest-budget film Bronfman has shot in Northern Ontario to-date, so having full confidence in the shooting location was essential. Based on a short story by Michael Hamblin, the noir-thriller revolves around the story of a convicted man who escapes in a small town and seeks out the truth about his sister (played by Genelle Williams). North Bay perfectly captured the tone and essence of the film, but Bronfman also reveals the added financial incentives through regional tax credits and the Northern Fund were integral for the film’s viability.
"North Bay perfectly captured the tone and essence of the film."
“The financial assistance is really critical in offsetting and mitigating the travel and living and accommodation costs,” says Bronfman. “But North Bay was also creatively suited for the project. There were a lot of meaningful factors as to why we came up there.”
It didn’t hurt that director Budreau also happens to be from North Bay, which meant that he was able to navigate the city in a meaningful and creative way. The film, which takes place over a two-day period, needed to be a stand-in for Ohio, or more broadly Any Town in Northeastern North America. “When we were shooting the movie Rob was staying at his parents’ house,” Bronfman reveals. “That was a pretty funny throwback for him.”
Film in the time of Covid
And there was the pandemic of it all. The low coronavirus rate in the area compared to more metropolis Canadian cities was particularly appealing, especially considering the current state of filming insurance in Canada. Delia’s Gone was too far into pre-production when the Canadian government announced its $38 million COVID-19 backstop in early October, so the fact that the crew was able to create their own “bubble within a bubble” was an extra layer of insurance for financial backers.
“We were in No Man’s Land with respect to COVID but luckily our financiers supported us,”
Bronfman says. “We also worked with a great line producer, executive producer, Jason Ross Jallet, who had already shot a film in COVID and created a really, really detailed pamphlet of COVID protocols and workflows. The cherry on top was that there had not been an active case of COVID in North Bay [for a while] when we went.”
“If you’re going to have to quarantine and you can’t leave the property, why don’t you come up and stay in a beautiful cottage on the lake or in the forest?”
Still from "The Edge of Winter"
Bronfman reveals that the tranquility of the North has always been a draw for top-tier talent on-screen too. Over the years he’s brought in stars such as Adam Brody (The Kid Detective), Camila Mendes (The New Romantic), Joel Kinnaman and Tom Holland (The Edge of Winter) to various northern shoots, touting the world-renowned Ontario cottage country appeal of it all. “It’s kind of an easy sell,” he reveals. “If you’re going to have to quarantine and you can’t leave the property, why don’t you come up and stay in a beautiful cottage on the lake or in the forest?”
He adds that Tomei was set up in a beautiful cottage on the lake with lots of land, but one of the movie’s other stars, Fimmel, only wanted to fish. “He was like, get me a shack by the lake,” Bronfman recalls with a laugh. “He actually got upset when we tried to upgrade him. He’s like, ‘If I’m going to quarantine for two weeks, put me by a lake, get me a few steaks, get me a fishing rod and I’m set.’”
At Home in the North
At this point in his career, Bronfman has basically done the tour of the North. He easily lists towns like Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, Mattawa, Wawa, and North Bay, revealing each place has its own character and uniqueness that adds a special quality and feel to a film. He also reveals that CION has been a constant support, reaching out every step of the way and offering training, education, and resources—in particular with the local communities. “It’s important to tap into the communities and ingratiate yourself and hire locally and make the communities feel like it’s a win-win situation,” he says. “And that’s exactly what has happened.”
The experiences overall have been so great that Bronfman plans on bringing two more films, the Avan Jogia film Dormouse, and Carly Stone’s sophomore directed feature film North of Normal, up north to shoot later this year. “We’ve just had great experiences and that’s why we keep coming back,” he says. “We love it up there.”
Bronfman is one of dozens of producers who have taken advantage of an early discovery of the North as a shooting destination—but the secret is out, and more and more productions are moving to the North. To discover everything Northern Ontario offers producers, or get help setting up your production here, contact CION's film supervisor, Rob Riselli.
Find out more about how CION can help your production in the North. Check out our guide for producers, regional resources and services, crew database, and the Hotlist of films currently in production.