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Big Picture: Duncan studio attracts top animators to Island

Luke Carroll has been living on Island time since he relocated to Cowichan Station two years ago, but now he’s moving full steam ahead on another major animation project.
The animated film Henchmen is being produced in Bron Studios’ new facility in Cowichan Station, just south of Duncan.

Luke Carroll has been living on Island time since he relocated to Cowichan Station two years ago, but now he’s moving full steam ahead on another major animation project.

The big difference for the British animator who produced The Weinstein Company’s 3-D animated science-fiction comedy Escape From Planet Earth is that he’s making his new movie on his own turf.

“Flash forward, here we are,” said Carroll, who is producing Henchmen with Aaron L. Gilbert, managing director of Burnaby-based Bron Studios.

Carroll is also managing Bron’s new production facility in Duncan. Fuelled by provincial tax incentives, the expansion gives top-flight animators a chance to work in an idyllic setting.

Their inaugural project, written and directed by Adam Wood, a former CG animator with Pixar, is set in the world of super-villains where a “fallen henchman” voiced by James Marsden must find his inner hero to rescue a fresh-faced recruit (Thomas Middleditch). Other voice talent includes Rosario Dawson, Alfred Molina, Nathan Filion, Jane Krakowski, Rob Riggle, Craig Robinson, Will Sasso and Bobcat Goldthwait.

“It’s going well. We’re at that point in production where we’re starting the animation,” said Carroll, whose 1,500-square-foot studio on Station Street in Duncan is housed in a former cinema.

“We’ve got six people on the hook to work there, with room to grow,” said Carroll, also Bron Studio’s vice-president of animation.

He said his creative team joined Bron’s new Vancouver Island facility for the same reason he moved to Cowichan Station, just south of Duncan.

“It’s a lifestyle choice,” he said. “A couple are very senior animators who’ve moved around the world working on different shows.”

Apart from the tax incentives and the fact that he lives there, Carroll said the studio decided to set up shop in Duncan because of recruitment potential.

“It’s a competitive market,” he said. “We can attract really good talent, like people who want to get out of the city.”

The Cowichan Station facility features sophisticated new technology that lets animators work in real time with collaborators in “the mother studio.”

Henchmen is the first full-length animated feature for Bron Studios. Its recent projects include Ricky Gervais’s new comedy Special Correspondents and Meadowland, starring Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Before Signed Sealed Delivered: From Paris with Love had even aired on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries — uniting stars Eric Mabius, Kristin Booth, Crystal Lowe and Geoff Gustafson with guest star Poppy Montgomery — another movie inspired by the hit series about the adventures of The Postables has started filming.

Principal photography began this week on the next Signed, Sealed, Delivered movie shooting in and around Victoria. William B. Davis, best known for playing The Smoking Man in The X-Files, just wrapped his scenes in a guest-starring role opposite the actors playing the franchise’s benevolent postal detectives.

Extras casting director Sara Brown said Victoria locals ages 18 to 60 are still welcome to add their names to the list of prospective background performers.

Be sure to email a photo of yourself from the waist up along with your phone number and the name of your agent — if you have one — to

No experience is necessary, but only those selected will be contacted.

THAT’S A WRAP: Stranger in the House, the mystery-thriller starring Emmanuelle Vaugier and Matthew MacCaull, has wrapped, but that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of executive producer Cynde Harmon and her husband and partner in Really Real Films, director Allan Harmon.

“It’s really been wonderful, with the kind of community support we don’t see as much of in Vancouver anymore,” said Cynde. “This definitely got us wanting to come back.”

Stranger in the House was the first feature he directed here, a development they attributed to the distant location provincial tax credit.

“Until this extra [six per cent] piece came in from the province, you just couldn’t do it here,” added executive producer Kim Arnott, who says the tax credit helps offset costs of housing and transporting crews.

Arnott, who last produced Playdate and Stonados here, said she’d also be back with other projects.

RUSHES: A Lifetime movie inspired by the rise of heroin use among teenagers that was filmed here is making its Canadian broadcast debut Sunday at 5 p.m. on SuperChannel. Directed by Vanessa Parise, Perfect High stars teen idol Bella Thorne as a Chicago high school dancer who becomes addicted to heroin after taking prescription painkillers for a knee injury in the film that co-stars Israel Broussard (The Bling Ring), Daniela Bobadilla (Anger Management), Ross Butler (Teen Beach Movie) and Jasmine Skye Sarin.

While many fans will forever associate Lindsay Wagner with her starring role in the hit TV series The Bionic Woman, the Emmy Award-winning actor will reveal her many other layers July 13 when she begins her week-long advanced acting retreat at Stylux Studios. Wagner has earned accolades for her intimate retreats where she inspires performers to authentically convey characters by accessing deep emotions. She also shares stress-reduction techniques and helps participants build confidence and work effectively with the camera.

There are only five spots left. Email or visit for details.

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