Plans for Ottawa film hub rolling along

Plans for Ottawa film hub rolling along
NEWS

Ottawa’s film commissioner says things are moving quickly in the effort to turn a quiet piece of the Greenbelt into a sound stage for big TV and film productions.

The non-profit, arm’s-length agency is partnering with TriBro Studios of Toronto to turn a former federal government research facility near West Hunt Club Road and Woodroffe Avenue into a four-stage complex, as well as office space for animation companies and training facilities.

“Things can move along pretty quickly when the interest is there from the city and the players that are involved are all serious about what they’re trying to do,” said Bruce Harvey, head of the Ottawa Film Office.

The National Capital Commission board approved a special exemption on Nov. 22 so the federal land could be used for the film studios, and Harvey said construction could start after the spring thaw.

An ‘exciting project’

Ottawa city council got the ball rolling on the necessary municipal land approvals during their meeting Wednesday.

“This is one of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved in since elected,” said Coun. Keith Egli, whose Knoxdale-Merivale ward will host the production hub.

Egli said this film hub would help the local industry grow, create new jobs and bring in more business.

“The province of Ontario has to turn away about $260 million of production work on an annual basis, and we’d like a part of that here in Ottawa,” said Coun. Jean Cloutier, a member of the Ottawa Film Office board.

Sound stage shortage

Harvey said the reason Ontario turns away that business is due to a lack of sound stages — a worldwide problem.

So, if Ottawa can offer what a production needs for building sets for a dramatic series, it will be able to lure shows here, he said.

The Ottawa area currently does about $100 million in film production each year, but it could double that, Harvey estimated.

“For film and TV, all of the money that gets spent on these productions comes from outside Ottawa,” with money flowing to crews, carpenters, hotels and gas stations, Harvey said.

He said the film office talks with producers from across Canada, but he’s also met with the likes of Netflix, who need studio space for the new series they’re creating.

Plans for Ottawa film hub rolling along

Bruce Harvey is Ottawa’s film commissioner. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Campus could grow local industry

The site could also become a campus for the broader industry, including the rapidly growing animation scene, Harvey said.

He’s talked to animation studios about moving to the site, and to companies that do motion-capture technology for gaming.

That could see students from the animation program at Algonquin College, located just down the road, eventually doing placements there.

Having writers, animators and other creative people hanging out together could also lead to chance meetings and ideas, said Neil Hunter, one of the coordinators of the animation program at Algonquin College.

“Anytime there’s a place creative people can get together and just be creative is awesome.”

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