Camosun College eyes film studio for Interurban campus

Camosun College is starting exploratory discussions with the Lexi Development Group about building a film studio, sound stage and related facilities for students at its Interurban campus.

The intent is not to train filmmakers and actors but rather to prepare people for the trades and technology side of the business, said Geoff Wilmshurst, Camosun’s vice-president of partnerships.

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Subjects could include 3-D, 2-D and special-effects animation, carpentry and electrical training, lighting, hairdressing and makeup

Wilmshurst said there is plenty of opportunity in the film industry.

“What we know is that the industry is starved for people in British Columbia and an awful lot of film productions end up importing people from out-of-province to do the work,” he said. “In particular on Vancouver Island that’s the case.

“We end up with people who are sent over from Vancouver or even L.A. in order to do even the basic jobs.”

Even basic work requires a certain amount of studio training, Wilmshurst said.

“There’s really a need for education programming that’s going to bring people up to speed on how to work within the studio environment.”

A Creative B.C. report from 2017-18 said B.C. is one of the best places to make movies in North America and is a global competitor in the fields of visual effects and animation.

The B.C. movie industry is expected to have almost 13,000 job openings over the next decade, has an annual economic impact of $3.4 billion and currently employs 60,870 people.

Wilmshurst said Camosun has been working with Victoria film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert on the studio concept.

“We’ve been also working closely with Creative B.C. in Vancouver, so everyone has been brought into this and frankly we haven’t heard a negative word from anybody about this idea yet.

“In fact, the idea of pairing a post-secondary institution with a film studio seems to make a lot of sense to everybody we’ve spoken to so far.”

Things are starting to move along, Wilmshurst said.

“We’ve signed a letter of intent and now we’re in the feasibility stage,” he said. “We’ve got a number of approvals that we have to get through.”

Chief among those is approval from the Ministry of Advanced Education, he said. That includes allowing the use of a site.

“We have a paper that needs to go to them and the minister has to agree to allow the disposition of the land,” Wilmshurst said. “Our board of governors needs to make similar kinds of approval.”

Camosun president Sherri Bell said the college strives to give students skills that employers and industry want.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said he is excited by the potential of a studio to provide jobs related to the trades, arts, culture and digital work while expanding the area’s economic base.

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