The Thompson-Nicola Regional District will increase the film commission’s budget next year to explore feasibility of a motion picture studio in the region.
Last week, the regional district board voted to increase the 2021 budget by $35,000 for the study.
TNRD chair Ken Gillis told KTW it’s not a matter of what could be gained in the region, but what is already being lost economically without such infrastructure in place. The board heard the area is bypassed by productions due to a lack of studio space.
TNRD film commissioner Vicci Weller said one production looked at converting Memorial Arena in Kamloops into studio space for a production, while three groups have contacted her about wanting to invest in a studio. Weller said the TNRD film industry is about where the Okanagan was when it looked at building a studio, noting the time is right to look at feasibility.
The Okanagan has Eagles Creek Studios, a 21,000-square-foot film studio about five minutes from Kelowna International Airport. It was built in 2018. In addition, the Okanagan has a film school.
The initiative in the TNRD follows a study completed last year by the film commission that explored ways in which to grow the regional film industry, with infrastructure and film crew training recommended. Weller said Mastermind Studios in Southgate is “far too small,” arenas are booked and no free-standing, 20,000-square-foot warehouse space exists. Furthermore, past reports into feasibility of private studios recommended private-public partnership for such a space.
“I think investors need good, solid grounds to make their investments,” she said.
However, TNRD Area P (Rivers and the Peaks) director Mel Rothenburger wondered if the study was a $35,000 “gift” to private enterprise, suggesting the homework would normally be done by business, not government. Weller said the industry is at a point, however, where it is losing out on projects that would consider staying in the region for a long time.
Ashcroft Mayor Barbara Roden said the study would be money well spent and Mike O’Reilly said a studio would give the regional film sector a leg up. Area I (Blue Sky Country) director Steven Rice said tourism is struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting not often do opportunities for new economic drivers come along.
“There’s very few economic drivers that are game changers,” Rice said. “In my area, area I [Spences Bridge region], the film industry is a game changer. … I really applaud this.”
The study is expected to show what a studio would look like, where it could be located and whether there is enough opportunity in the region to make use of such space.