Keith Cutler Remembers the Late Grace McCarthy’s Contribution to BC’s Film Industry

May 31, 2017
Posted by: Leslie Wootton

Grace McCarthy: The Impossible Dream

Keith Cutler remembers how it all began.

Barely mentioned in news stories of the public life of the late Grace McCarthy is her establishment of the first film commission in BC.

Yet, arguably, that act alone was the beginning of the industry we enjoy today ‘third largest production Center in North America, capable of handling some 50-odd gigs at a time, generating upwards of two billion dollars annually.

And it all started with two quite separate contacts, the best-know when entertainment columnist Jack Wasserman ran into Grace in an elevator and pitched the idea to her,

The second was very grassroots and little known.

A few members of the BC Film Industry Association were holding an executive meeting over a beer (or two), very informal. The only two people I can name today were Patty Robertson, then-president, and myself. But the topic of discussion was clear enough:

How to get a real film industry started in BC? That seemed to be all we ever talked about.

The BCFIA had been set up to deal with tax matters for industrial films. The name stuck for those of us who dreamed of bigger things. But no financial people would even look at film production seriously.

What about government? Grace McCarthy was the Minister of Tourism at that time, a skilled booster of the province. Could we approach her?

Someone said: ai???Well, why don’t we just phone her? Patty, you’re the president’ai???

It was a simple what-have-we-got-to-lose suggestion. Patty had a list of government phone numbers and she went off to another room to call. We sat, sipping in silence.

Maybe fifteen minutes later, Patty came back, looking a bit dazed. I remember that pause as we all waited and perhaps hoped.

Then Patty blurted out: ai???She’she said yes!ai???

It was just a beginning. So much work and dedication remained. Find the right person for Film Commissioner. A brief misstep, then names like Justis Greene, George Chapman, Bob Gray, Diane Neufeld; funding for trips to LA from government and IATSE 891. Gradual replacement of US crew persons with Canadians, agreement with the DGA for American directors, equipment rental companies, tax credits, Academy Awards . . .

Grace’s first film commission happened in 1978. Thankfully she lived to see the fruition of that event along with all her other accomplishments.

Keith Cutler is a 50 year veteran and among the founding builders of BC’s film & television production industry.