The Skeetchestn Band and Virtue Productions have received a $218,000 loan from the BC Ministries of Aboriginal Affairs and Employment and Investment. The money will be put towards a joint venture, the building of a Wildhorse western-style movie set.
Virtue, a non-Native owned company also received a separate federal grant from Human Resources and Development Canada towards the building of the project.
Wildhorse Town is possibly the first joint venture of its kind between a First Nation and non-Aboriginal production company, said Peter Smith, communications director for BC Aboriginal Affairs.
The set, to be located near Kamloops, will initially consist of 12 building shells and building fronts. These buildings will be leased out to production companies that want to make use of the town and the area's diverse scenery for movie productions.
The primary construction estimate is about $817,000. The set will be built on 21.8 hectares of reserve land that is to be leased to Wildhorse under a registered 25-year agreement. It is estimated the project will create 32 jobs during the construction phase.
Ron Ignace, chief of the Skeetchestn band hopes to diversify the project over time, expanding on the western theme of the Wildhorse town.
"We hope to expand into all areas of Native people and Native issues." Ignace said Wildhorse will "give another option to movie producers before leaving the province for Alberta locations."
The band reports that while there is no guarantee of jobs for Aboriginal people, the opportunity is there to develop skills in the industry. There are currently three band members employed at Wildhorse. Smith hopes the venture will benefit First Nations, as much as it will the broader region.
Ignace said discussion has begun with Simon Fraser University in hopes of providing training in the various careers of the movie industry for people interested in working at Wildhorse.
An analysis of lower mainland sites similar to Wildhorse have suggested annual production spending could reach more than $8 million, said Gerard Janssen, minister responsible for the film industry.