Vancouver Island Film Studio on the outskirts of Parkvsille.
By Merv Unger
0615 - You may remember my attempt to crash the Hollywood scene last summer with a role on the hit
TV show Chesapeake Shores which is shot on Vancouver Island.
I must have made a real impression – Jacqui Kaese, who owns CK Casting, gave me another shot at stardom this season, on the same show.
That was monumental after last year’s
break in. You see, I was in one scene, sitting way in the background as a patron at a make-believe bookstore. I waited in anticipation when the show finally aired, and lo and behold, I was sitting behind a potted plant, never to be seen. What a debut!
Jacqui gave me another shot at making a lasting impression and I wasn’t about to miss it. If the director uses a mere snippet of the film they shot, I’ll be a household name in no time. I made sure there were no potted plants anywhere in the
line of sight.
It was a full 12-hour day which invloved scenes for two episodes of the show.
The set was at the new Vancouver Island Film Studio just outside Parksville. It’s a real eye opener of a development, with huge warehouse-sized
buildings where the action takes place. For Chesapeake Shores there were more than a dozen semi-trailers with equipment, sets, sound and lighting equipment and change studios.
This is the third season for Hallmark Channel's Chesapeake Shores production
activity in Parksville, Qualicum and Nanaimo.
Chesapeake Shores producer Matt Drake says the production managed to get by for the first two season. "We kind of did things we would call poor-man solutions where you are renting a warehouse and trying
to outfit it yourself. Having a purpose-built studio just makes it a lot easier."
Drake met Parksville businessman Ron Chiovetti three years ago and an exciting new venture sprouted. Chiovetti began building the island's first designated film studios
in Parksville, incorporating sound stages, office, construction and prop shops all to aid the growing film industry on Vancouver Island.
The late Tom Harris was Chiovetti’s founding partner on the project, and Tom’s son Mike has stepped
up into his father’s role.
For Joan Miller of the Vancouver Island North Film Commission the studio is a dream come true. The opening of the studio last October was a big day for the film industry in the region.
"It brings all the pieces
together between locations, training, incentives and now to have infrastructure that will support Chesapeake Shores and other ones that have been really interested in coming here. We're the full package now," adds Miller.
The new studios and local crews
are a big attraction for Drake who says productions will save money.
"What it does is it gives us the confidence to know that if anything comes up at the last minute we have a space that we can go to and I think that's what's really important for other
producers who are apprehensive about bringing production to the mid island region." added Drake.
"The locations in Vancouver are sometimes exhausted, you know we are fresh, we are new or undiscovered territory," said Kaese. She employed more than
1,000 extras on the second season of Chesapeake Shores, and more this season.
This production alone injected up to $10 million into the local economy last season. At least half of the crews are locally employed so there was a push to keep the production
here. But more crew members are needed and that's why a new program has been started at North Island College.
They're learning everything from being production assistants to helping with set design to learning lighting. The fact that the studio is here
for them to work is so exciting, says Randall Heidt, North Island College VP of Strategic Initiatives.
Four studios are now in operation with 28,750 square feet of clear span area with ceilings more than 20 feet in height. Two more studios are in the
works, with even higher ceilings. That will boost the total facility space to nearly 50,000 square feet.