Parksville may become the mid-Island hub for a steadily growing film industry if the Vancouver Island North Film Commission and local business entrepreneurs have anything to do with it.
Vancouver Island North Film Commission (INfilm) unveiled Vancouver Island Film Studios to local production crews, government officials and local businesses on Thursday (Oct. 19).
The studio will have three sound stages, office space and construction and prop shops. Two of the buildings have already been built, with another building currently being under construction and ready for use in early 2018 and two more buildings planned to be ready by mid-2018, according to Ron Chiovetti, Vancouver Island Film Studios developer.
Chiovetti told a room of about 100 people that the late Tom Harris of Harris Oceanside Chevrolet was originally his founding partner on the project, adding Harris’ son Mike has stepped up as his business partner.
The location, Chiovetti said, started with the high-end storage facility Guy Garages, but Chiovetti said the business began lending some studio space to INfilm, and from there the project picked up speed.
“Joan (Miller of INfilm) said, ‘You just keep building and we’ll keep finding the films,” Chiovetti said.
Chiovetti told The NEWS that VIFS recognized a need to build studio space for the growing film industry.
“We think it’s a game-changer for Vancouver Island,” Chiovetti said. “This is the beginning of many buildings we’re putting together and we just think it’s exciting and it’s going to bring economic impact to the Island.”
Matt Drake, producer of Chesapeake Shores, which filmed portions of its first two seasons throughout the region, said he spoke to Chiovetti early on about using some of the facilities for filming.
“I think at that point it was still sort of a seed of an idea,” Drake said. “To his credit, he’s (Chiovetti) just completely ramped up the build process here and it’s fantastic. I think it’s going to be a really functional space for us.”
Chesapeake Shores wasn’t able to use studio space during filming of the first two seasons, Drake said, but if there is a season three, production crews would certainly be using the space for sets. He said it will also be beneficial for production crews on the mainland.
“To have studio space out here just anchors more production out here,” Drake said. “It’s very accessible. A lot more accessible than I think producers that haven’t shot here think. It was a learning curve for us. We had to blaze new trails and go through that process in the beginning of season one, but I’m happy to say it’s been really, really successful for us.”
And having studio space in the mid-Island region will allow people such as Owen Fontaine to use skill sets he’s learning through newly established film training courses.
In March 2017, the provincial government announced funding for a North Island College pilot film training initiatives. Last week the first of eight new courses began at the Campbell River campus.
Fontaine, who worked season one and part of season two of Chesapeake Shores, said he’s taking two courses — grips (lighting and rigging technicians) and lighting. Fontaine said he started as a production assistant on the set before moving to the grips department, but he said he realized he didn’t have the technicial skills to do the job.
“Industry leaders, they don’t want people fumbling about. I noticed while I was there, they were really having a hard time finding locals with the skill on the Island,” said Fontaine, who grew up in Errington.
“But now I’m taking a step back and I’m going to go to North Island College. That way I can go back to the same employers again and hopefully they’ll bring me back on their team; only I’ll have a whole new toolbox of skills.”