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

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

Saanich police reported an increase in violent crimes and a drop in traffic incidents in the first three months of 2021 compared to the final quarter of 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich police report increase in violent crimes during first quarter of 2021

More domestic violence, less property crime and distracted driving compared to end of 2020

Donna Brower (left) and her daughter Carol Anne Penner, members of the Silver Swans – a quilting group of 12 ladies who meet at the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary – with a mountain of masks they sewed. (Photo submitted by Julia Dawson)
Saanich quilting group nabs first prize in Volunteer BC photo contest

Silver Swans sewing club raised more than $12,000 for Swan Lake nature sanctuary

Greater Victoria is ranked fourth out of 27 Canadian cities for the best places for youth to work in, according to a RBC report. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria among best Canadian cities for youth to work in, says RBC report

Region ranked fourth out of 27, behind Vancouver, Hamilton and Edmonton

On May 10, Saanich council unanimously approved a 2020 budget with a 5.76 per cent property tax increase. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Saanich adopts 5.76% property tax hike for 2021

Budget includes $2.6 million to accelerate climate actions, active transportation targets

Happy green tomato seedlings wait to be purchased at 3378 Wishart Rd. in Colwood. They’ve been grown especially for the Colwood Garden Society’s fundraiser to build a shed at the community garden. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Colwood Garden Society hopes to raise shed with plant sale

Herbs, vegetable starts, flowers and more for $1, $2 and $3 until May 15

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
BREAKING: Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

Scenes like this one in the dugout are all too frequent for parents and kids arriving to play baseball at Nunns Creek Park these days, spurring a request to the city to let them move to the Sportsplex in Willow Point. Photo from CRMB presentation to City of Campbell River
Needles, feces and the unhoused send Island kids baseball program to greener pastures

Campbell River minor baseball program switches ballparks over growing safety concerns

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks during a press conference in the rotunda at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. to use remaining AstraZeneca vaccine for 2nd doses

Health officials say the change is due to the limited availability of the vaccine

A youth plays basketball in an otherwise quiet court in Toronto on Saturday April 17, 2021. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on proven public health policy interventions including paid sick leave, and education rather than punitive enforcement measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Provinces issued more COVID-19 tickets during 2nd wave: CCLA report

‘A pandemic is a public health, not a public order, crisis,’ reads the report

Capt. Arpit Mahajan of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Snowbirds 2 - shows off his ‘Jenn Book’ dedicated to Capt. Jennifer Casey. Zoom screenshot
Homecoming for B.C.-raised Snowbirds pilot training in the province

Capt. Arpit Mahajan flies Snowbird 2 in his first year as a solo pilot with the team

Most Read