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’s 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 Black Press 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 Parksville Qualicum Beach, 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.”
While 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.”
With a studio space such as Vancouver Island Film Studios, productions will need to access local talent and crew and March 2017, the provincial government announced funding for a North Island College pilot film training initiative. Last week the first of eight new courses began at the Campbell River campus.