Vancouver Island Film Studios

October 21 2017

Joan Miller said the phones at Vancouver Island North Film Commission
haven’t stopped ringing since plans were unveiled outside of Parksville
on Thursday night for a full-service film studio in the region.

“We’ve been inundated with calls from producers for

18 hours,” said Miller on Friday before boarding a plane bound for Los
Angeles to attend the annual Association of Film Commissioners
International Cineposium.

Miller, who was chairperson for the annual event for years, said she
will have plenty to talk about between workshops about everything from
creating winning location packages to tips on how to be more

“This wasn’t a case of ‘if you build it they will come,’ ” said the
Campbell River-based film commissioner, reacting to developer Ron
Chiovetti’s announcement that his Vancouver Island Film Studios, located
northwest of Parksville, while unfinished, is already open for

“The industry is already coming. This is another part of the big
picture, thanks to this person who had the wherewithal to do it. With
this kind of infrastructure, it should bring even more people over.”

Once complete, the 32,000-square-foot facility will include three sound
stages, offices, construction areas and prop shops, Chiovetti told a
crowd of local crews, business leaders and government officials.

“For the past two years, I have been providing services to the
television series Chesapeake Shores,” he said, referring to the Hallmark
Channel series that filmed its first and second seasons in Oceanside.

He said he recognized an opportunity to expand his business model and
take advantage of recent growth in the film and television production

The late Tom Harris was the founding partner on the project that got
off the ground at Guy Garages, Chiovetti’s massive storage facility for
RVs, boats and automobiles at 1240 Valley Rd., and began to take off
after he lent studio space to INFilm. The studio, which complements his
other nearby business — Isle Golf Cars, 921 Fairdowne Rd. — is “an
exciting new project for my company,” Chiovetti said.

“It’s not an area I imagined myself expanding into at this time, but you never know what fate has in store for you.”

A small, functional studio is already open for business, with an
expanded purpose-built facility expected to be operational by 2018.

Chesapeake Shores producer Matt Drake told the crowd it was reassuring
to know that there were potential partners such as Chiovetti and other
local vendors who were “able to build on the infrastructure that we
needed and we know we could really rely on here and [know] what we could
actually spend here to make sure we had everything we needed.”

The Hallmark series starring Victoria native Meghan Ory and Jesse Metcalfe has injected

$5 million into the local economy so far, said Oura Giakoumakis, past chairperson of the Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Beyond inquiries about locations, one of the first questions producers
who are considering shooting in the region ask is whether there is a
local crew base and infrastructure, Miller said.

“Soon there will be,” she said, noting a purpose-built facility is “the
icing on the cake” that complements other pieces of the industry growth
such as a TV series that could potentially shoot a third season there,
unique locations, a film-friendly community, favourable tax incentives
and a pilot local crew training initiative.

She was referring to the North Island College pilot film training
initiative that began last week with the first of eight new courses at
the Campbell River campus that will later be repeated in Port Alberni.

In March, Michelle Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum Beach,
announced provincial government training funds to help local students
get the skills needed to work in the high-demand production industry.

“This training program has developed a lot of work,” said Miller, who
says while Chesapeake Shores hired 35 per cent of its crews locally last
year, it hoped to increase that to 50 per cent if there is a third

Other projects that been filmed in whole or in part in the mid- and
north Island include Godzilla, War for the Planet of the Apes, Superman
and the History Channel series Alone.

According to Creative B.C., film and TV production expenditures in B.C. are estimated to top $2.6 billion this fiscal year.

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