William Woods of Woods Entertainment
Why this Toronto Producer Chose to Shoot 5 Films in Northern Ontario
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.
William Woods, head of Woods Entertainment, is a Toronto-based producer and a serious mover and shaker—his films have starred top Hollywood talent, premiered at Cannes, SXSW and TIFF, and in the last year alone he’s launched Game Theory Films, a boutique distribution company in Canada, and Line 200, a film finance fund with $2.5 million in equity.
Woods has a longtime connection to the North—his first film, In Return, won the Audience Choice award at Cinefest Sudbury in 2012—and of the six films his company has produced in the last two years, five were shot in Northern Ontario.
Castle in the Ground (2019) was shot in Sudbury; Hammer (2019) in Sault Ste. Marie; The Rest of Us (2019), Like a House on Fire (2020), and current production The Kid Detective all shot in North Bay, each with a budget in the $2-4 million range. Woods spoke to us about the advantages of Northern Ontario and working with CION, from locations and NOHFC funding to crews, suppliers and vendors.
Like a House on Fire (Photo: Lindsay Sarazin)
"The North’s huge advantage becomes apparent when you are shooting a combination of urban and rural, or exclusively rural settings."
The Kid Detective
Running the numbers
Woods mentions that the NOHFC has specific spend requirements to access and maximize the benefit of the NOHFC production incentive , so you’ll need to strategically plan to optimize your Northern crew members, locations and suppliers. (There’s a list of the NOHFC-approved suppliers here, and of course, CION’s crew database.)
“For feature films, the NOHFC offers a maximum contribution of a $500,000 grant if you are going to spend over $1,000,000 in local Northern economies. The truth is we end up spending much much more just on the production, not to mention the spending that comes from a large cast and crew living, eating and recreating in the North.” But the benefit to the productions is significant. Says Woods, “p. retend for a moment that Toronto and North Bay both work creatively for a film. You may pay more to travel, house and feed your cast and some key crew but by our calculations the production is still netting a $240 - 260k benefit by shooting in Northern Ontario with the NOHFC.
“The North’s huge advantage becomes apparent when you are shooting a combination of urban and rural, or exclusively rural settings. If you have to accommodate for hotels and per diems in your budget anyway, the North is a big winner in terms of overall net benefits — closer to 380k. If you’re crewing locally in the North—likely not 100%, but there is increasingly more and more high-quality crew —there’s more benefit to filming in the North: no hotel or per diem costs for local crew means, the production can put even more money on the screen.. And CION also helps offset some costs in training new crew in the North.”
Castle in the Ground
Quality crew - and cast
The quality of crews in the North has also been a motivating factor. “There are a lot of not only great crew, but great people in the North. In many departments from location people, accountants, insurance providers, second and third ADs, camera crew, art and construction people, post production facilities, musicians and many more. As the North gets busier, it’s harder to crew—but it’s always very busy in Toronto as well, so this is not an issue the North faces alone. Recently, I’ve even seen productions bring people down from the North to work in Toronto.”
As well, Woods notes, “hotels in all three cities are super solid, and car and truck rentals are no problem.”
Woods adds that Northern Ontario offers not only crew, but cast. “It’s definitely easy to find talented actors and background people in the North. There are background casting directors—Ashley St. John of Northern Casting has helped us a lot. But It’s going to really be fun when we see a bona fide star breakout from the North, and with the volume that’s being shot up there, the North is bound to produce a global talent at some point.”
The North is looking good
It’s not just the professional pool or the funding advantages that keep Woods coming back to Northern Ontario; it’s the look and feel of the place. “Sudbury is a mining town with a very unique vibe, and the city is on the Canadian Shield which is also very interesting —there are lots of dynamic locations there. North Bay has Lake Nipissing, the escarpment, beaches, downtowns, suburbs, ski hills, and lots of beautiful rural settings in Powassan, and some of the most gorgeous sunsets you can ever see. Sault Ste. Marie is also a special place, the natural landscapes are so diverse, with three of the great lakes meeting on the edge of this small town, which also has the benefit of being close to the US border.The North is very cinematic and aesthetically delightful. ”
Woods 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.