Meet the Film Commissioner: A Chat with David Shepheard (Part 1)

Vancouver’s first Film Commissioner knows he’s the new kid on the block. Fresh from London, David Shepheard is a seasoned industry veteran and has joked about being a bit of a “serial film commissioner” in the past, having been pivotal in setting up the Bristol Film Office, the Abu Dhabi Film Commission and Screen East (UK), and involved in consultancy work in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Shepheard has worked tirelessly since his arrival, taking a deeper dive into the nuances and needs of Vancouver’s Film & TV industry. Naturally, as he scoped out the Vancouver industry, the Vancouver industry (and media) have scoped him right back. The one question he encounters most is: “What is it exactly that you do?”

As Film Commissioner, David Shepheard leads on physical Film & TV production and its associated concerns, including liaising with industry associations, government agencies and studio heads; conducting proactive investment attraction initiatives; and supporting local talent by collaborating with local union representation and multiple levels of educational institutions. In addition to his role as the Director of the Vancouver Film Commission, Shepheard works alongside Nancy Mott, Executive Director of the Vancouver Film & Media Centre (FMC), to address similar needs expressed by representatives of Vancouver’s Digital Entertainment & Interactive (DE&I) ecosystem.

In a recent interview with film industry ’zine Playback, David Shepheard opened up about what he wants to accomplish in his role in 2017, the biggest challenges facing Vancouver, the major growth opportunities in the city, and how he wants to fulfill the Vancouver Film Commission’s mandates, which include strengthening and supporting IP creation in Vancouver.

We’ve included an excerpt from the transcribed interview below.


What do you want to accomplish in this role in 2017?

David Shepherd - Vancouver Film Commissioner - Vancouver Economic Commission | Digital Entertainment & Interactive
David Shepheard, Vancouver Film Commissioner

Firstly, it’s understanding how the role of the Film Commissioner sits within the ecology of what’s already here. There’s some great work being done by existing agencies, guilds and associations that represent the industry here. It’s looking at where are the little gaps that we at the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) and the Film and Media Centre—which is the new initiative that was announced last year as well—can really make an impact.

That can look at the education and talent agenda, making sure there’s a good supply of B.C. talent still coming into the industry to feed the booming production that’s here; looking at infrastructure, being able to make sure that the city is resilient to these increases in business and all the different elements are in place to welcome that production.

One of the early things that we’ve identified that we want to really focus on is IP creation in the local community. We’re very, very experienced and busy at servicing international productions that come to Vancouver. One of the things we’re looking at doing is [working] with the small- to mid-scale independent producers and helping them to create more projects that are rooted in Vancouver.

We don’t have a strong brand as “Vancouver” in the film world, but everybody’s seen Vancouver. Lots of productions shoot here [and] call it elsewhere. The post-production and VFX sector is so strong, so I think it’s going to be a lot more about building the brand recognition and getting more exposure for Vancouver as a global production centre. That’s something that we’re really keen on doing and all of our partners are interested in doing that and making sure that Vancouver is playing itself.

[To do that] we’re trying to work with the content creators and generate more stories that are written here, about the area, about Vancouver, and ultimately that will make sure that the shows come and film here.

Read the rest of ‘David Shepheard on building “brand Vancouver”’ here.


At the Vancouver Economic Commission, we’ve come up with a few questions to ask him ourselves. We’ll include some of them in Part Two of Meet the Film Commissioner, but have included a sneak peek in the meantime.

What’s one of your favourite prominent movie scenes that you’ve been involved in arranging?

Suffragette (2015) is the first major motion-picture that ever got access to the UK Houses of Parliament. Seeing a major historical event that happened so many years ago coming to life on film in the same place that those events happened – well, that was really interesting.

And how did that come about?

Credit goes to the producers and the production team negotiating very carefully with the Parliament’s management team, who had to sell it to the politicians. Obviously, the MPs had to be on board with it all—and they were, mostly because of the subject matter of the film and the Suffragettes link to the history of politics in the UK. Another scene that sticks out is one from the Edge of Tomorrow (2014). There’s a scene where Tom Cruise is riding in a helicopter that lands in the middle of Trafalgar Square.

Stay tuned for “Meet the Film Commissioner: A Chat with David Shepheard (Part 2)”