LEE Filters Canada Meets Evolving Needs in 2023
In the summer of 2021, after more than 30 years of selling its lighting products in Canada through a distributor, LEE Filters established its own footprint in the country, enabling the company to sell and support its full range of products in Canada as part of its global development strategy. Since opening its doors, LEE Filters Canada — located at Panavision Toronto — has celebrated many milestones, and as 2023 gets underway, the LEE Filters Canada team are ready to build on those accomplishments and continue empowering customers to bring their creative and artistic visions to life.
LEE Filters began its journey as a leading manufacturer of lighting gels and professional camera filters more than 50 years ago in the U.K. Now, as part of the Panavision group and with three office locations more than 400 photographic and lighting dealers across the globe, LEE is better equipped than ever to support its international customer base while continuing to develop new product offerings.
Colin Sangster, Country Manager for LEE Filters Canada, recently shared his perspective on growing LEE Canada as well as the trends he sees impacting the company and the industry moving forward.
What led to the opening of LEE Canada?
Colin Sangster: For decades, LEE Filters was represented by an independent distributor in Canada, and when he discontinued that line of business, LEE took the opportunity to bring our Canadian distribution back in-house. Canada is a very important market for the brand, so we knew we needed to set something up quickly to better support our dealers and to make LEE products readily available to all of our customers, no matter where in Canada they were located.
We of course offer the full range of LEE camera filters, and we're especially focused on our lighting gels and panels. Also, we differentiate ourselves with our customer service. We’re very customer-service oriented and focus on making sure each buyer is satisfied with the products and services they receive.
How has LEE Canada grown since its launch in mid-2021?
Sangster: Our first order of business was to communicate to our customers and the industry that LEE Filters was now located at Panavision Toronto and that we had available inventory. We’ve established consignment inventory in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, we’ve added a number of resellers in different areas, and we’ve brought in new product and added infrastructure in the LEE Canada facility. We strategized with our sister branches to make all of this happen, and we’ve seen great results in terms of sales. And despite the challenges around supply chains that have impacted so much of global commerce, we’ve been able to ensure that inventory is available and easy to find for customers.
As a member of the Panavision family, what would you say is the biggest benefit to being located at Panavision Toronto?
Sangster: Being at Panavision Toronto was an essential building block that allowed LEE Filters to get back to market quickly. We have access to their full administrative backend, warehouse space and industry professionals who understand the needs of the production industry. Having LEE Filters Canada located at Panavision Toronto was the differentiator that helped make our first year successful when it could’ve been much more difficult.
Similarly, how do LEE’s multiple offices — in the U.K., the U.S. and now Canada — support one another and the company’s overall business?
Sangster: As many brands have experienced, supply-chain issues have been a big challenge. All the LEE Filters branches have worked together and coordinated internally to fill inventory. In a pinch, LEE Canada can source inventory from the U.S. and vice versa.
LEE Canada has also been a great asset in providing information on what’s happening in Canada to our headquarters in the U.K. and our sister branch in the U.S. There are many American shows that shoot in Canada, so having our communication with the team in L.A. is a great resource and helps increase LEE’s visibility, which has been huge for brand reputation.
What have been LEE Canada’s biggest achievements or milestones since opening, and what are you most proud of?
Sangster: It may sound cliché, but simply being able to get the team and infrastructure set up. Our main goal was to reestablish the brand in Canada and reengage key industry players, and we achieved that. We also hugely increased our available inventory, despite the supply-chain issues I mentioned, and we’ve seen increasingly strong sales. It’s all been very rewarding, and we’re ready to accomplish our next set of goals.
What are the key trends you’re seeing that will inform the future of the company and the overall industry?
Sangster: There are currently two technological movements happening in the production industry that will be consequential for our brand. We’re noticing that there’s a decreasing cost for new lighting fixtures, particularly LEDs. As the cost decreases, the tools are becoming more accessible to more creatives, which will have a profound impact on lighting. There’s also the increasing use of virtual sets in production, and we’re already seeing several studios set up for full virtual shooting environments here in Canada. This impacts the workflows of those who set up the shot and work in post-production, changes the tools they need, and really changes the entire planning process of these shoots.
What’s next for LEE Canada?
Sangster: We’re focusing on continued refinements and contributing more to the LEE Filters brand as a whole. As we do this, we’re also watching industry trends and identifying how our customers’ demands are evolving so we’ll be ready to adapt as needed to continue supporting them with the very best products and world-class service.