Film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert says a studio would help the region attract additional film production. (Black Press file photo)

Local film commissioner supports Saanich’s efforts for film studio

Mayor-elect Fred Haynes sees film studio as a source of economic development

The regional commissioner cannot guarantee more Hollywood films will come to region if Saanich or any other Greater Victoria municipality helps to build a film studio.

But Kathleen Gilbert with the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission said she supports Saanich mayor-elect Fred Haynes’ idea to help bring a film studio to the region.

Victoria possesses two out of the three conditions that make it an attractive production destinations: tax credits and crews, she said. But it currently lacks a studio, she added.

RELATED: Slow year for film productions on the West Shore

The region currently draws television productions and smaller budget features with budgets sometimes reaching into the tens of millions, she said. But a film studio could help the region attract productions with values topping $100 million, she said.

While the commission would not build such a studio itself, it has been trying to identify a suitable location for at least the last two years, said Gilbert, adding that the region has received serious inquiries from private parties in the past, only to see them fall short for a number of reasons, including size and cost.

RELATED: Movie magic missing: Dearth of crew, facilities hamper local film industry

Any future studio would have to stand on a lot that would be large enough to host a 20,000 square-foot studio with room to grow, she said. Such a lot would also have to include plenty of space for crew and equipment parking, and be near enough major transport nodes (such as Victoria International Airport and Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal) as well as high-end hotels, she said. Communities capable of fulfilling those requirements are Saanich, Sidney and Langford, once crews have completed work on the McKenzie interchange.

While more affordable land would be available north of the Greater Victoria area, the Malahat Highway would pose a transportation problem, she added.

Any future push for a film studio would also raise a number of political questions, key among them: would space for a film studio not deny space for housing?

Gilbert said that presents a false choice. “Do we have to choose [between a film studio and housing]?” she asked

Notwithstanding the first year of the financial crisis in 2008, the film industry has been growing every year, she said.

According to Creative B.C., the provincial agency responsible for promotion and growth of the creative industries in British Columbia, 450 productions contributed $3.4 billion to B.C.’s economy during the fiscal year 2017-2017. Overall, the industry supported the employment of 60,000 people.

These are high-paying, green jobs that any community in the Greater Victoria region would welcome, she said. A prosperous film industry also promises to increase the region’s global recognition.

Greater Victoria received a taste of that action last year, when Canadian-born star Ryan Reynolds posted a photo of himself as his Deadpool character in front of Hatley Castle on Royal Roads University campus. Observers also spotted Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp filming scenes for his upcoming movie, Richard says Goodbye, at that same location.

RELATED: West Shore continues to be popular location for film productions

Against this backdrop, it is no wonder that communities across British Columbia are making a pitch to get a slice of that business, and Saanich has joined that list as Haynes has identified a film studio as an economic development tool for Saanich.

So what would be the cost of a film studio?

An estimate made three years ago pegged costs for a studio with three sound stages at around $30 million, said Gilbert, adding that the costs have likely gone up since this initial estimate.

In short, no small amount of money, and any private investor would likely look for some public assistance. Such support would have to earn political support. Local opposition to Haynes’ idea has already emerged.

RELATED: Mayor says soundstage is a game changer for Okanagan movie-making

Victoria resident Christina Mitchell, who has worked as a costume designer in both the United Kingdom and Canada and also served as a former campaign manger of Haynes’ mayoral opponent Rob Wickson, said she would like to see the local film industry succeed, but questions its sustainability. The local industry goes through feast and famine cycles, making it difficult to retain crews, she said.

The film industry also faces other challenges, she said. Tax incentives that support the film industry in British Columbia may be here today, but gone tomorrow, and British Columbia is just one of many jurisdictions across North America that offers such incentives, she added. Fluctuations in the value of the Canadian dollar could also cut down business, she said.

Finally, she points to the Okanagan, where the region’s first full service film and TV studio closed in early 2018, after opening its doors in November 2016.

The building had undergone extensive renovations, but failed to generate sufficient business.

RELATED: Film studio up for sale

Industry experts including Gilbert have argued that the building was not ideal because of its height, and the region continues to attract additional investment.

But this failure is also a warning that not everything in the silver screen industry turns golden.

Just Posted

Juan de Fuca curlers ‘reeling’ after learning rink will be replaced with dry floor

West Shore Parks & Recreation board says curling rinks not getting enough use

The rock is no more for Oak Bay ‘Sea Lore’

Council calls for change to controversial location proposed for art installation

Metchosin driver striking a deer heralds a need for caution

Vehicle incident likely not the last of its kind in Greater Victoria

Mary Winspear offers out-of-this-world evening with Chris Hadfield

Tickets on sale March 22 for Colonel Chris Hadfield visit May 7

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

‘That’s a load of crap’: Dog poop conspiracy spreads in White Rock

Allegation picked up steam through a Facebook page run by a city councillor

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

Most Read