The good news is that Pit Pony turned out to be a success, to some degree. The bad news is that it is unlikely to be repeated, at least as things stand now. Since the cancellation of the Cochran Entertainment / CBC television series Pit Pony, Filmscape Studios – the state of the art soundstage housed in the old Micronav building at Sydport Industrial Park in Westmount where the popular series was shot – has been largely unused. Once toted as a strong player in revitalizing the economy of this area (the estimated economic impact of the facility was $2.5 million in 1998, accounting for 160 direct and 78 indirect jobs, with 1.7 jobs created for every one person directly employed) and boasting “Atlantic Canada’s Only Backlot”, the facility seems to have been forgotten by the powers that be. Incredibly, there have been no new productions attracted to the facility, despite the efforts of the Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority who manage the facility. One theory for this lack of interest is that CBCEDA’s marketing initiatives were lacking or misplaced. Another theory revolves around the abandonment of the original design of the facility and how it was meant to encourage economic growth.
One of the principle ideas around the facility was that the production of Pit Pony at Filmscape would involve locals in the cast and crew, not only providing an income for individuals, but also training them for future employment opportunities in the film industry. At the time, Human Resources Development Canada announced $2.5 million towards the production of the series from their Transitional Jobs Fund. The idea was that a local film crew would be trained during the course of shooting and then would be available for productions considering Filmscape or Cape Breton Island as a location. This crew would be skilled, experienced and local. It was a great idea, but the cancellation of the series and the absence of any to take its place, left crews in a lurch, half-trained, somewhat experienced, totally in limbo. It was a good plan which might have worked given the opportunity. And while the film industry continues to be strong in the region (Halifax is a hotbed of activity and Newfoundland just scored with Random Passage, The Shipping News, and the soon to be released Rare Birds) unemployment and lack of opportunity continues to run rampant here in Cape Breton. The last I heard, Filmscape was for sale. And Pit Pony was recognized in Los Angeles with three award nominations.