A sign in Langford directed crews during the filming of a Hallmark TV Movie in April 2019. (Black Press Media file photo)

Saanich calls for lights, camera, government funding for movie studio construction

Mayor estimates cost of build at $24 million

Greater Victoria could be one step closer to breaking ground on a film studio complex.

Following a swift discussion on June 22, Saanich council voted unanimously to call on the provincial and federal governments to chip in for construction of a movie studio in the Capital Regional District (CRD).

At the recommendation of Mayor Fred Haynes, council will send a letter to Joyce Murray, minister of digital government, the office of Western Economic Diversification Canada, the finance minister of B.C., and Premier John Horgan emphasizing the “economic and cultural benefits” a movie studio would bring to the CRD and requesting that applications for financial support be considered.

READ ALSO: ‘Exciting’ updates expected in casino, film studio proposals, says Saanich mayor

In a report to council, Haynes explained that since the province announced movie production could resume after a months-long shut down due to COVID-19, the premier has spoken highly of B.C.’s film industry and that Catherine McKenna, minister of Infrastructure and Communities has said the federal government is ready to provide financial assistance for stimulus projects. This, Haynes said, makes now the perfect time to resume work to bring a film studio to the region.

The concept of bringing a movie studio to the region isn’t new. Haynes noted that Camosun College specifically has been in talks with various partners since 2019 to possibly bring a film studio to the Interurban campus.

In early March, council resolved that Saanich approves of the establishment of a movie studio in the CRD “as the Greater Victoria region would greatly benefit from the economic advantage of a film studio.”

At the time, Haynes crafted a letter of support to Melanie Mark, minister of advanced education, skills and training explaining that there are numerous locations throughout the CRD that could accommodate a film studio as the region’s mild climate permits year-round filming, making it a desirable location for production companies.

READ ALSO: Proposed Saanich studio part of a larger push to capture Hollywood dollars

Film studios will be “integral to the new economy” post-COVID-19 so council is asking that “location-non-specific, shovel-ready projects” be considered for funding, Haynes told Black Press Media.

He pointed out that with B.C.’s successful handling of COVID-19, production companies outside the province have shown interest in filming projects in B.C. He added that the film industry brings in nearly $3.5 billion annually and he hopes a new studio complex would allow the CRD to attract some of that business to the Island.

A studio would bring an economic boost to the region as well as create some 600 jobs; a standard 18,000 square-foot studio requires a staff of about 200, Haynes explained. He envisions a complex with three studios for the CRD.

READ ALSO: B.C. film industry given go-ahead to restart productions halted due to COVID-19

According to Haynes’ report, the estimated cost to bring a film studio to the CRD would be $24 million and with a $10-million contribution from the federal government, he said the project could “proceed immediately as a successful public-private partnership.”

There is a precedent, Haynes explained in his report, noting that Bridge Studios, Vancouver’s first film studio complex, was initially opened on Crown land.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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