A potential film studio space on Malahat Nation land has taken another step forward, according to organizers.
In a joint conference Friday, the Malahat Nation and partner Alpha Select Production Services Inc. says the stage has been set to build a large studio, if financing falls into place.
In 2020, the two groups originally proposed an 80-acre film park to attract larger productions to the Island.
Now, the Malahat Nation and Alpha Select are looking at developing the studio park in three phases, with the first phase – which would include two sound stages, a workshop and production offices – ideally starting by the end of the year, according to Alpha Select CEO Beverley Dondale.
While the groups have been working on the plan for more than five years, the First Nation says it wasn’t until recently that the land was ready to accommodate such a large project.
“To get a project of this scale going in a region where we don’t have a lot of infrastructure to start with – it’s meant building water infrastructure, wastewater infrastructure, power, communications infrastructure and also making sure the right transportation networks [are ready] to make things work here,” said Malahat Nation CAO Josh Handysides.
If all three phases of the studio project were to be built on the 80-acre parcel of land, Dondale estimates construction costs would be about $200 million, which is the minimum of what’s required to attract larger productions to the Island, she says.
But, Dondale also wants the studio to be open to Canadian productions as well.
“The grand scheme is having $200 million productions, but I also want Vancouver Island to be the hub of domestic film, and being with Malahat Nation, who are storytellers, it just starts from the ground up there,” she said.
While there’s renderings of how the space would be used, and what each phase of the development would look like, there’s no firm timeline yet on if and when the studio will be built.
“The stage that we’re at today was really to show that we have everything together, and so the next step is finalizing the money,” said Dondale.
“My dream is that at the end of 2024 we’ll have a shovel in the ground, but that means finalizing financing and investors,” she said.
The Malahat Nation isn’t the only Island group interested in making a film studio.
In 2021, Camosun College received a $150,000 provincial grant to put together a business case for building a film studio at the college.
In 2022, the City of Langford also set its eyes on a development that includes two film studio spaces.