My name is Kelly Balon. My family on both sides have been in Saskatchewan for more than one hundred years, originally settling on farms near Wakaw and Rosetown. My 90 year old grandmother lives in Prince Albert. I am a condo owner in Saskatoon and own farm land near Wakaw. I work in the film and television industry as a producer, publicist, casting director and marketer. I love Saskatchewan and I am good at my job.
I moved back to Saskatoon in 2008 after business training at Vancouver Film School and working as a talent agent, upon notice that KarmaFilm, a company I had long aspired to work with, had a position as Associate Producer for the productions of Wapos Bay Season 4, documentary Mad Cow Sacred Cow, and series Landing Season 3. 45 RPM was about to be released as well, and they were looking for someone to aid in the promotion and publicity of the film premiere in Regina and Saskatoon. One of my first tasks was to engage Mike Holmes of Holmes on Homes for an episode of Wapos Bay. It took all of about 30 seconds to accept the job and make plans to move back within two weeks to start working.
I left Vancouver because of the merit of work offered to me. I could have stayed in Vancouver and competed against the large more experienced pool of talent and would have likely ended up working with a corporate video company, not that there is anything wrong with that, but it wasn’t my ambition. After five years of being away, I wanted to come home to be close to family, especially my aging grandmother, but only if I could work in the industry I had trained for. I had invested too much of my time and money for anything less. I completed the Entertainment Business Management Program with success, which had given me the instruments I needed to get a foot in the door for an entry level position. Karma Film and Wapos Bay provided that opportunity, and the experience I have gained in the last four years has superseded expectations and my work now carries weight internationally. I have cut my teeth at a high level in the global industry, and have learned more than I could have imagined about this business and my place in it. My conclusion from all of this is that I don’t see myself working in any other industry, as it would be a waste of my training, skills and experience to do so.
My motivations for working in this industry are simple. I believe in the importance of storytelling as a means to preserve and celebrate cultural identity. I am from Saskatoon and I love Saskatoon. I think it has potential to be the next Austin Texas, a cultural centre that internationals come to in droves to experience the unique art and culture of this humble but extremely talented small city. Saskatoon is home to countless musicians like the Sheepdogs, Jordan Cook, Wide Mouth Mason, and none other than Joni Mitchell. It is a hotbed for young aspiring talent currently rising up such as the Young Benjamins and Castle River and is internationally recognized for award winning film and television productions like Corner Gas, Wapos Bay and Little Mosque on the Prairie. It has always, as far as I remember, been a place with identity. Not just the next big ticket for resource exploitation and real estate development. It has soul.
I understand the economics of strong cultural industries. Culture and business go hand in hand. Culture is an industry. There are countless studies done on the cultural industries and their importance for economic development. New York comes to mind, Santa Fe and Berlin too. What I have seen happen in Saskatchewan in the last 4 years has been inspiring and has led me, a 35 year old guy that never thought could enjoy living in a small city, to think that maybe I could make Saskatoon my permanent home.
KarmaFilm had its best year ever. In the last 12 months we produced three movies, a webseries, video game and iPhone app. We created more than 200 jobs, and generated a $5 million dollar spend into the Saskatchewan economy. We have $2 million+ dollars worth of production slated for 2012 in Saskatoon. Our productions have won countless awards in the previous months alone, including five in Los Angeles, and one in New York, not to mention 5 Gemini’s to date. These productions have screened in more than 10 countries and have been broadcast in four languages. Surely, it ought to be a time for celebration.
I am from Saskatchewan, and this province needs me as much as I need it. This place symbolizes so many things to me, most importantly family and friends. My connection to Saskatchewan goes back more than one hundred years. I belong here. I need to know that this current government is not one to turn its back on the thousands of people that believe there is a place for a diversified economy that includes film, television and interactive media production. We are on the verge of becoming a model city for the world for not only its strong economy, but as a cultural capital that will continue to foster its young people’s contribution that make Saskatchewan a great place to live and make a living — a place to be proud of.
We can work together on this.
Producer | Publicist | Casting Director | Music Supervisor | Boom Operator | Body double | Photographer