The impact of the feature film “Maudie” spans not only a renewed interest in Atlantic Canadian art, but an economic impact in Newfoundland and Labrador reaching millions of dollars, according to a newly released report.
“Maudie,” co-produced by St. John’s-based Rink Rat Productions, tells the story of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis. Her hands were said to be deformed at birth and worsened by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which also earned her torment at school. Essentially abandoned by her family after her parents’ death, Maud met miserly fish peddler Everett Lewis after she answered his ad for a housekeeper, later marrying him and covering the walls of their tiny cabin with her folk art. Maud died of pneumonia at age 67.
The release of the film — which stars Sally Hawkins as Maud and Ethan Hawke as Everett, and was filmed in St. John’s and smaller communities in 2015 — resulted in an influx of visitors to Halifax’s Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where her work and her tiny home are kept.
An increase in the value of Lewis’s paintings followed, with her “Three Black Cats” fetching $36,800, more than five times the estimated price, at a Toronto art auction last spring.
“Maudie” also cleaned up at last weekend’s Canadian Screen Awards, earning seven awards, including Best Motion Picture, Best Achievement in Directing (Aisling Walsh) and Best Original Screenplay (for Stephenville native Sherry White).
According to a study by the Canadian Media Producers Association released last week, “Maudie” generated $6.4 million in gross domestic product (GDP) and drove $9 million in total economic output.
In Newfoundland and Labrador alone, work on the film saw $3.7 million in spending, yielding $4.1 million in GDP and $5.6 million in total economic output, according to the study.
Production spending on “Maudie” in this province included $1.6 million on labour and $2.1 million on goods and services, and engaged 195 vendors, such as vehicle and equipment rentals, catering, professional services and others.
“Maudie” benefitted from federal and provincial government incentives, including $658,000 through Newfoundland and Labrador’s Film and Video Tax Credit. Each tax credit dollar resulted in $8.53 of economic impact, the study reveals.
The report also notes a tourism benefit to the town of Keels, Bonavista Bay, where parts of “Maudie” were filmed in the Mesh Store.
“This general store provides residents with groceries, hardware, household supplies and mail,” the report reads. “The store is planning to leverage the success of the movie and draw tourists to the area through a new addition to the store, Maudie’s Tea Room, which will display items used in the film.”
Producer Mary Sexton is behind Rink Rat Productions, and spent close to 10 years working on “Maudie.”
“Just like Maud Lewis and her artwork, this film reflects the rich character of the subject matter and the talent of the local community where it was created,” Sexton said in a written statement. “Maud’s story, and the incredible recognition it has received, really shows what is possible when we bring Canadian stories to the screen.”