Is a Film Studio In the CRD Just a Fantasy?

Despite multiple efforts over the last three decades to establish a large studio in the CRD, Victoria still lacks proper film-production infrastructure. Does this blockbuster-sized challenge have a solution?

The recently opened Vancouver Island Film Studios in Parksville features over 50,000 square feet of production space, a construction shop, office space and parking.

“We”re ever hopeful” is how Kathleen Gilbert describes the outlook on having a film studio set up on the South Island. As commissioner of the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission, Gilbert has witnessed numerous attempts, from the proposed use of the CRD warehouse on Viewfield Road to the conversion of the former Thrifty Foods warehouse on Butler Crescent.

“The Viewfield Road space was not really suited for this use because of height issues, as a studio needs to be able to accommodate large sets,” Gilbert says. “The other effort [at Butler Crescent] fell apart after the death of two of the partners involved. But there is still a party interested in that property. It is still in play.”

Gilbert believes the building’s location on the peninsula is an ideal placement for a studio, pointing to traffic and parking issues in other areas that deter film productions.

“Another challenge in Victoria is the lack of space to grow into,” she explains. “When a crew sets up, they need parking for trailers and a lot of storage. The peninsula has more options for growth.”

Looking North

A local studio could also provide space for film-crew training, similar to the trial program established this year by the provincial government and North Island College at the new Vancouver Island Film Studios in Parksville.

Built by Ron Chiovetti, the Island’s first purpose-built film studio is already home to the Hallmark Channel’s Chesapeake Shores.

“We see it as a benefit to the Island as a whole,” says Joan Miller, film commissioner at Vancouver Island North Film Commission, which serves the Island from Ladysmith to Cape Scott. “Many projects involve collaboration with the South Island. With Vancouver and the lower mainland bursting at the seams, a lot of people are looking over here.”

This article is from the August/September 2018 issue of Douglas.