June 06, 2016 - 8:00 PM
VERNON - With everything from forests to deserts, the Okanagan has no shortage of outdoor filming locations to accommodate interested production companies, the only thing missing is a professional film studio for indoor set work, industry representatives say.
The region has already proven itself as an attractive place to shoot movies — Enderby Entertainment’s Blackway and Disney’s Tomorrowland are just two examples. What the Okanagan currently lacks is a professional film studio space where sets can be built on demand. The Okanagan Film Commission’s Jon Summerland says two feasibility studies have been done in the past to determine the viability of a studio space in the Okanagan, and both indicated one would do well here.
“It’s 100 per cent build it and they (production companies) will come,” Summerland says.
Shooting in the Okanagan, and B.C in general, brings a number of tax credits, but to receive them all, production companies have to shoot 51 per cent of the picture here.
“You can’t do that if there’s no studio,” Summerland says.
Previously, production companies have set up make shift studio spaces in the Okanagan (Blackway used the Forge Valley Storage warehouse downtown Vernon) but those spaces are limiting because they aren’t properly sound proofed and are only availably for fixed rental terms.
An Okanagan film studio is bound to attract movie-makers, but Summerland says it would also bring in T.V. shows, which would mean year-round work and huge economic benefits.
“Getting a real studio that works and landing a T.V. show, we are in the game,” Summerland says. “It would very quickly become your biggest economic driver, just like in Burnaby and just like Vancouver.”
He adds that not only are film studios in the Vancouver area full, they are more expensive to work in than the Okanagan.
The challenge is finding someone to build it, but at least one Okanagan entrepreneur sees the opportunity and is actively seeking out a suitable space.
Tim Bieber, with Evolved Media, has been meeting with film officials (including Summerland) and local governments to explore the idea of building a film studio in the Okanagan — specifically in Vernon.
“There are production companies saying ‘build it and we’ll be there,” Bieber says. “It seems like an amazing opportunity. As I’ve been knocking on doors they’ve all been opening, and people have been showing up. Things have seemingly been coming together as if meant to be.”
He has a strong lead on a space in Vernon, and while it would need extensive renovations, it looks promising.
“Basically it would be a giant sound-proof warehouse where they can work around the clock, not concerned about the weather or the noise or the goings-on of the outside, and bang out films quicker,” Bieber says.
The production company behind a new film is interested in working specifically in the Vernon area, but needs an indoor studio space, Summerland says, adding he’s hopeful they can be accommodated.
“This would be a very big deal,” Summerland says, declining to provide details.
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