The Langford Soundstage Complex will be built on the former Western Speedway grounds; Camosun College also has sound stage plans, for the intercity campus grounds
Southern Vancouver Island could have its first sound stages for film productions by the end of the year.
Strand, the company behind the redevelopment of the former Western Speedway land in Langford, is planning two 20,000 square foot sound stages, and the council is expected to say ‘action’ on planning permission following a public hearing on May 6. “Langford really wants this…there will be no roadblocks; it will be a red carpet rollout,” Langford Mayor Stew Young said in an interview.
Young said the Langford studios will lead to increased spending for local businesses and more jobs. “We have a young population and skilled trades people that the film industry can tap into,” he said. “It’s not just great for Langford, but for the whole area.”
Langford Studios would be the first of several potentially being built in the area. Camosun College is planning three sound stage buildings on its intercity campus with an educational component, and Malahat First Nation is exploring film studios on its land.
Construction could start in Langford by June and the buildings could be operational by the end of the year, according to Strand, which is developing the 81-acre site with Bastion Development as industrial, office and retail space. retail.
Soundstages aren’t complicated – they’re large soundproof boxes that allow filmmakers to create sets inside, said Victoria Film Commissioner Kathleen Gilbert. And they will be “game changers” for the local industry, she said. “We can still attract the $10 million productions here, but to get the $100 million to $200 million shows here, you need sound stages.”
Vancouver Island Movie Studios near Parksville, with six sound stages and the only operating one on the island, said it was booked through January 2024.
The local scene has relied on warehouses for sound stages for decades.
During the production of the Netflix series Maid, crews used the empty HomeSense store at the Tillicum Mall as a sound stage, Gilbert said. “It was a great space, but a lot of those places aren’t available forever.”
Gilbert said the rise of movie studios that attract big-budget productions will bring economic benefits to everyone from lumber yards and hotels to restaurants, rental companies and other vendors.
Camosun College has completed a business case for sound stages. He announced that he would soon be inviting developers to submit proposals to build three 18,000 square foot studios, as well as an educational building where students take classes in film production.
Geoff Wilmshurst, vice president of partnerships at Camosun College, said the studios would be built on five acres behind the PISE sports field on the southeast corner of campus. It currently has older buildings that would be demolished. The plan is for Camosun to invite developers to build the studios on a long-term ground lease.
The size and design of the soundstages — and construction timelines — would depend on potential builders, said Wilmshurst, who estimates it could take up to two years before studios are up and running, and longer for the educational component. .
Wilmshurst said the business case, funded by the province, indicated Camosun’s sound stages were in high demand on the island and there was a need for educated workers in the film industry. Camosun wants to provide both.
As part of an economic development plan in 2019, Camosun was brought in to talks with the Victoria Film Commission, Creative BC and Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes to come up with a plan for film studios.
Camosun already offers courses in carpentry, metalwork and electricity, fundamental skills in the film industry.
The college is developing a center for film and digital media, which would include sound and digital editing facilities, green screens, classrooms, production offices and wardrobe, carpentry and prop workshops .
“Once completed, the specially designed sound stages will provide hundreds of well-paying jobs for locally trained graduates,” the college said. “Ultimately, students can be trained to work in all ancillary areas of film production, from metal work for in-camera special effects to digital post-production work.”
A $300 million film studio with six sound stages and a proposed retail complex on Malahat Nation land near Mill Bay is still in the feasibility stage. Plans announced in December 2020 called for film studios on an 80-acre plot that would also include a business and industrial park, a 120-room hotel, a shopping village, and a technical academy for film learning and vocational training.