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Movie magic on the rock

A screenshot from a NIFCO film productionWalking by this quiet corner of downtown St. John’s, few passers-by catch wind of the busy creativity unfolding under the cheerful but modest facades.  

But make no mistake – there’s nothing modest about the success Jean Smith and her colleagues at the Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers’ Cooperative (NIFCO) are making there these days.  

Armed with a suite of state-of-the-art film editing technology, the cooperative of over 300 independent filmmakers is hard at work mastering the art of post-production on films — from a number of award-winning documentaries and shorts, to their most recent work on the popular CBC production Republic of Doyle, now in its third season.  

And then of course, there is their work on the coming-of-age film Grown Up Movie Star, an official selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.  

Since its founding in 1974, NIFCO has grown from a small rental space in the east end of the city with some basic (and mainly borrowed) equipment, to an entire block of fitted-up properties in the heart of the city — growing quite a reputation in the process.  

Today, as the province's one-of-a-kind, not-for-profit filmmaking co-operative, for editing, mixing and final technical development, NIFCO is a hard act to follow — attracting steady business from filmmakers across the country, and building opportunities for highly-prized jobs in a creative industry that is often feast or famine.  

“In the seven months it takes for Republic of Doyle to be produced, up to 60 local jobs are created here,” explains Jean, NIFCO’s Executive Director and recent recipient of a Women in Film and Television award for industry dedication.  

In fact, since re-tooling their facilities with new equipment in 1995, the cooperative has helped draw over $150 million worth of film and video production to the local economy, along with numerous other local economic spin-offs.   

Jean says that assistance from ACOA has been critical to ensuring NIFCO’s acquisition of the new sound mixing and picture editing they needed to attract and keep big productions in town.  

“The Agency’s support for our business vision and investments in infrastructure gave us the leverage we needed to attract other funding by showing support on a federal level — it made it easier for other federal and provincial partners to come on board.”  

As for the future, Jean says with the success of Republic and other projects, their co-op may soon set its sights on another expansion. “We’re bursting at the seams here,” she smiles confidently.  

If these cheery, modest houses could only betray their inner life, they’d have quite the story to tell about movie-making on the rock.

Published January 13, 2012