Making films requires a lot vehicles and Mark Dann makes sure productions have what they need to keep rolling — both on screen and behind the scenes.
Over the last 15 years, he’s worked in the Picture Vehicles and Transportation departments of various productions either helping procure vehicles to appear on screen or making sure the cast, crew, and equipment have the transportation to be where they need to be.
That means finding anything from a shuttle bus to bring actors to a location to renting tundra buggies for a specific scene.
But how Mark found his own way on set was very serendipitous. During his career a professional Seadoo racer, he opened up a rental shop in Gimli and ended up lending some machines to a production.
He ended up briefly appearing in that production and then working for other films afterward, helping them get the vehicles they needed, waterborne or otherwise.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Gimli, Manitoba. I love being outdoors. My wife and I raised our two sons along Lake Winnipeg.
In the summer we enjoy our home on the water, fishing, boating, camping, and seadooing. In the winter we love skidooing and ice fishing. I also enjoy photography, my latest passion is drone photography.
Currently I am the Vice President of IATSE 856. I am enjoying this experience and would like to continue to help our members and our industry grow.
When and how did you start in the media production industry?
I’ve been in the film industry since the summer of 2005. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time! I was at the local Seadoo shop in Gimli, when Scott Sullivan walked in to pick up a couple of machines that were going to be used as product placement for the series Falcon Beach.
The next day I was getting paid to drive a jet boat along Netley Creek! Growing up in Gimli gave me the water experience to help his team during the shoot.
Since then, the film industry has given me the opportunity to meet so many interesting people, travel, and even get acting roles in productions like The Don Cherry Story and Goon.
What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
I got my start in Picture Vehicles, however, I also work in the Transport department.
Most people don’t understand how different the two departments are: Picture Vehicles is in front of the camera — basically vehicles that art part of the set — and Transport is behind the scenes, moving the cast, crew, and equipment. Both departments have their own challenges.
With Picture Vehicles, sometimes it’s tough to find three identical vehicles (one to film, one to wreck, and one just-in-case spare) or to find certain vehicles for period films.
Challenges in the Transport department include finding enough parking space for the circus (cast trailers) and the tech-line, or making sure all the cast gets where they need to be on time.
I’ve been lucky. Through my work in these two departments, I’ve been able to work with everything from motorized wheelchairs to tundra buggies in Churchill.
What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
The biggest change I’ve noticed is watching Manitoba become a film destination.
When I started most Manitoban film professionals had to supplement their income. We all had a “real” job so we could keep working in the film industry. The first few years were rough; in between films, and during the winter months, I framed houses, and worked in the Northern Alberta oil industry.
In the last five years we’ve experienced steady growth in the industry thanks to the Provincial tax credit and the development of talented crews.
If you could give yourself advice today to yourself in the past, what would it be?
It would be to put your family first. During my first few years in the industry I couldn’t say no to a job and I missed out on a lot of family time. It took me a few years to realize that it’s ok to say I needed a day off or to take that weekend to go camping with the family — even when I didn’t know what project I’d be working on.
What is advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?
Budget, budget, budget. The film industry isn’t consistent.
We all know we make good money in a short period of time working in film, but you have to learn to budget for the months when you might be going without a paycheque.
Working in the film industry isn’t all glamour and you almost never work nine-to-five. It’s long days, in all weather conditions, working with a lot of different people and personalities — but it’s worth every second when you love what you do.
Why is learning and training important?
No matter what industry you work in, continuing to educate yourself makes you a more effective team player and ultimately makes your team stronger.
What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new you’ve been into?
I’m all over the map with movies but I do enjoy documentaries. The stories they tell, the people, the places it’s all very interesting. I especially enjoy anything made in or about Manitoba.
Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?
In the mid 1990s I raced Seadoos in a national race circuit that took me all across Canada. I raced in the Pro ranks and in 1995, I finished as a top ten racer in Canada.
I’ve always been involved in the tourism industry and I spent 15 years managing a resort and fly-in fishing lodge, and in 1993, I founded a Seadoo rental business in Gimli.
Where do you see yourself in ten years from now
It’s highly likely not much will change for me in ten years and I’m 100% okay with that. I love this industry, I genuinely like the people I work with, and this job allows me the flexibility to spend time with my family.