Camosun film studio concept takes another step forward

Camosun College will use $150,000 in provincial funding to look at building a film studio to train students at its Interurban campus.

The school has set up an advisory committee that will assist with the planning and assesment process. The plan is to eventually increase opportunities for students in the B.C. film industry by building an-campus studio and outbuildings that would be used by local and international film crews, as well as the college itself.

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“The investment from the B.C. government allows the college to further explore the feasibility of a film studio and sound stage at our Interurban campus and the exciting educational possibilities it could create for students,” Camosun College president Sherri Bell said in a statement.

“Educational opportunities could include carpentry and electrical programs for trades students; new diploma and certificate programs such as digital animation; and, skills training programs for people in the industry.”

The announcement comes at an opportune time for Victoria, where the film industry is concerned.

The region is booming, and the film industry as a whole is taking notice. In January, Moviemaker magazine, a U.S. online trade journal, named Victoria one of the top small cities in North America in which to live and work as a filmmaker. No other Canadian city made the list.

Kathleen Gilbert, film commissioner for the Vancouver Island South Film & Media Commission, said the capital region saw a significant uptick in activity during the pandemic. Film crews who shot in the region spent in the neighbourhood of $50 million in 2020, an increase of nearly $30 million over 2019.

“I believe in 2014, that number was about $8 million,” Gilbert said. “So it’s a huge jump.”

A substantial portion of the revenue came from the Netflix series Maid, which spent several months on Vancouver Island. The production, which wrapped last week, employed several hundred film industry professionals from Victoria during the shoot. “We’ve never seen this kind of interest in the Capital Region ever,” Gilbert said.

The provincial NDP made good on its campaign promises from October and appears to be all-in on the film studio concept. The funding model for the Camosun College project will be announced once a decision to move forward is made, but the immediate investment is a positive first in Victoria’s film industry future.

Building on the studio could commence as early as this year, according to some reports.

“A film studio at Camosun Interurban would benefit the local economy, creating new jobs and new customers for local businesses in Saanich South and the whole south Island,” Lana Popham, MLA for Saanich South, said in a statement.

“This investment could help Camosun achieve its goal of developing sound stages that can attract international productions and train the next generation of people who do the amazing work behind the scenes of the movie and TV industry.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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