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Post Production North

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Interview by: Jessa Laframboise | 2022

North Bay has become quite an attraction for the film industry in recent years. Our community has enjoyed the company of some star-studded visitors. And who hasn’t loved the new tradition of Christmas in the summer that pops up down each year? Or turning on the television and seeing your favorite local spots showcased in a movie? With television and movie productions becoming a more frequent reality in the community, in 2015, Post Production North has emerged as an essential facility in North Bay. Their mission is to support the post-production of television and movies in the area, promote the local labour force who have the skill and experience to work in the film industry and introduce local businesses to the industry. In the summer of 2021, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the president of Post Production North, Lieann Koivukoski, to talk about Post Production North and the behind-the-scenes theatrical experiences she has had working in the film industry.

While many people may wonder why this northern Ontario community has become such a prominent site for film and television productions, Lieann says to just take a look around, “North Bay is a beautiful place to be, and production companies see that.”

Our northern location also features a vast selection of diverse terrain and unique communities, a factor that Lieann says would appeal to any cinematographer. Lieann also expressed that she is grateful for the community. She admits that while it can be difficult for people because productions can slow things down, the film crews continue to be well received by the community, and she feels very supported. Lieann said that “Northern Ontario is so huge. But it is so small, and having a network of people supporting each other is really special.”

For those of us who don’t know what post-production is, Lieann provided insight into some of the operations at Post Production North.

She told me that post-production has “a bunch of faces.” One aspect of it is sound mixing. Sound mixing is not just about the addition of music. Lieann says that “it is about creating the tone in the scene and establishes what a room would sound like through the use of sound effects.” To help me better understand, she used the example of seeing someone walking. The sound of their feet walking across the floor is recorded on set and also recreated in a studio. This mixture of walking sounds that Lieann states “really helps create a more believable environment.” Another aspect is editing. In post-production, editors are given the raw footage, and they are responsible for putting it together and making the story. In this stage of the process, a film really comes alive. And while it was paused during the pandemic, Post Production North has been working with a company called SpeakEasy which will equip them with tools and training to offer descriptive video services.

Lieann explained that there was not much support for post-production in northern Ontario.

Production companies were coming and going, but Post Production North in the community means that there is access to necessary tools and opportunities that production companies require. So, working with Urban Post - a company based out of Toronto - Lieann and her business partner at the time, Dan Peele, began to set up a post productions facility at Canadore College. For Lieann this was an important endeavor because having a Northern presence for post-production ensures that it isn’t all going down south to facilities in Toronto. Having post-production opportunities here not only means that production companies continue to bring their productions to our community, it furthermore ensures that film productions can be achieved in the north, from start to finish. And for producers who come from away, it is an attractive asset that allows them to get involved with the NOFHC, which they cannot do unless they work with people from the north of their projects.

When the film industry first came to the area, northerners were only getting entry-level positions on production crews.

However, Lieann explained that in more recent years, there have been people from northern Ontario who are “running the camera, directing, and producing.” Furthermore, with the cinematography program at Canadore College, many skilled people from and within the community are entering the workforce. They can now find more local opportunities to promote their skills, be a part of the film industry, and practice what they love to do, where they love to be. Likewise, Lieann explains that production companies are always looking for different types of creative people, whether it be for set design, costuming, or music. There are so many opportunities for artists working in North Bay to expand their horizons within the film industry. They can be introduced to a whole new set of experiences where their talents can be utilized in the community. For Lieann, the ability to support emerging and established professionals from the north pursuing jobs in the film industry is one of the best parts of what she does at Post Production North.

With so many moving parts and responsibilities that come with being the president of Post Production North, I asked Lieann about what a day-in-the-life looks like for her.

She explained to me that her job is ultimately focused on communication - “My job is to connect with people. And that goes from Toronto to Thunder Bay.” Lieann works closely with the production companies that come to North Bay. She learns about their needs and helps them contact individuals or businesses who would serve those needs. And while communication and administrative responsibilities make up the regular day-to-day workload at Post Production North, working in the film industry is a constant adventure. Lieann shared with me some great stories about working on projects that had her dealing with some unusual and unexpected tasks. One example was when she worked on the film, Two Lovers and a Bear (2016). This wild experience included Timmins in the winter and a polar bear on the set. She also told me about two biblical films she worked on. They shot this project at the Bomarc Missile Site. Lieann laughed and admitted that it felt crazy to be saying that in the same sentence, let alone experiencing it. Lieann continued, “We put Jesus Christ on the cross in November, and camels and donkeys were walking around.” These projects were quite a challenge because Lieann dealt with things like camels - “bringing camels in. Bringing camels out.” And they also needed to make the Bomarc Missile Site resemble Jerusalem, but it was November, so it had recently snowed. This is just stuff that you don’t see every day. Or ever.” From one project to the next, Lieann takes something different away from the experience. And each project comes with its own set of “special tragedies.”

As we neared the end of our conversation Lieann explained that through Post Production North and her involvement in the film industry, she has met so many people she would have otherwise never gotten to know.

Having the opportunity to work with people who are so talented and inspiring has been a highlight for her; “To be able to have my life touched by these people, even if it is a very brief interaction, is special.” She hopes that as Post Production North continues to grow, she will be able to continue to work closely with the community, support the northern labour force, and be a source of encouragement for people pursuing their passions in the film industry.

Photo Credits

All photos were provided by Lieann Koivukoski

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