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Could Sarnia, Ont. be the next destination for Hollywood films?

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The City of Sarnia is looking to catch the eye of movie studios through a new initiative designed to make it easier for production companies to film.

If approved, the city is hopeful it will attract major productions.

Mayor Mike Bradley, who appeared prominently in Michael Moore’s ‘Bowling for Columbine’ in 2002, believes citizens will embrace the movie industry.

“People are thrilled to be part of the experience and particularly one that could last down the road, 20 to 30 years.”

Sarnia’s policy would take from other Ontario centres where new permit and filming rules have attracted investment.

For example, in 2022, a portion of downtown London was transformed to appear as New York City in the 1970s for an Apple TV series.

The same streaming service chose St. Thomas in 2020 to film the Jason Mamoa series ‘SEE.’ Its filming employed hundreds of local extras who lined up to audition in early 2020.

Aaron Huggett outside the Imperial Theatre in Sarnia, site of the public premiere for The Ace and The Scout. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London).Bradley would like to see the same scenario for Sarnia.

“As long as it doesn’t get too bureaucratic. My experience is they want to come in, they want to film, and they want as little hassle as possible,” he said.

Local filmmaker Aaron Hugget echoes the mayor's statements.

He has filmed extensively in Lambton County, including portions of 2022s ‘The Ace and the Scout.’

“Too much red tape just makes you avoid that city altogether. So, the challenge is how do you create something that is a tiered approach? One that doesn’t inhibit student film markers or small productions, while still attracting the larger productions to the city.”

Part of the draw is anticipated to be Sarnia itself.

“I think Sarnia and southwestern Ontario have a lot of opportunity there that is untapped. There are some great locations” said Huggett.

“It’s all here,” Bradley beamed. “Between being the biggest city on Lake Huron, to the double bridges, the rail tunnel, the airport named after Chris Hadfield, which is not being used as much because of the loss of commercial flights. To me, that’s an ideal location to look at.”

The next step in the plan will see city staff work on the policy with the film industry and local agencies. 

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