Downtown studio is the ‘right thing’ for the film business

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Turning the former CTV building into a production studio is “the right build” for Sault Ste. Marie’s film industry,” says a Film Sector Development Officer from Cultural Industries Ontario North.

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The East Street site is now home to Stardust Pictures. Its owner, Justin Levine, is a Toronto-based film producer and real estate developer.

CION’s Devin Mahesh calls Levine’s venture on the 16,500 square foot site “the right thing for Sault Ste. Mary at that time.

Much larger than that would be awfully difficult to manage,” he told the Sault Star on Friday, referring to larger venues expected to be built in North Bay and Sudbury. “There are more active film industry professionals in these two cities, so they are able to staff these kinds of places. If you were to build this building in Sault Ste. Marie, you would not yet have the capacity to support the work that would be happening there.

His Sudbury-based group promotes the music and film industries in Northern Ontario.

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Mahesh is encouraged by Levine’s ties to Rebeka Herron and Trish Rainone of Sault Ste. 180 Sisterhood Productions, based in Marie. The trio previously teamed up on A Christmas Letter, which aired on CBC TV in 2021. Levine served as executive producer. Rainone and Herron produced.

As needs change throughout studio bookings, they could grow and bring even more attention to Sault Ste. Mary,” Mahesh said. “Where Sault Ste. Marie is now in terms of film productions that they can host, this will allow them to have a little bigger. In the future, it would have to be something even bigger. Hopefully this is something the team consider investing in in the future. Now would be a pretty risky time to start there and not have the infrastructure in place to be able to support it.

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He anticipates that Levine’s business will help attract projects with budgets up to around $10 million. Mahesh also expects the Sault to host larger shoots as film and television projects with even larger budgets head to Sudbury and North Bay.

Talent, ranging from accounting and hairdressing to electricians and makeup artists, will be needed to support Sault’s shoots.

You don’t need to know how a camera works,” Mahesh said. “You just need to know the specific skills to help the team and then you’re part of a bigger project.”

When speaking with The Sault Star at a film careers night at Rolling Pictures in late July, Mahesh said the city doesn’t offer big-budget movies due to a lack of screen space. production.

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North Bay and Sudbury “have slightly more advanced infrastructure right now,” Mahesh said.

The Sault must become “a little more built up” to attract projects with budgets greater than $10 million. He made his comments ahead of news of the purchase of the former CTV building on East Street by Stardust Pictures’ Justin Levine.

They’re looking, but we end up missing a bit in Sault Ste. Marie on some of the biggest productions,” Mahesh said.

North Star Studio plans to construct five film and television stages in an existing building in North Bay. Freshwater Production Studios, a 116,000 square foot facility featuring 58,000 square feet of sound stages, is planned for Nickel City. Sudbury’s economic development office bills the community as “Northern Ontario’s filming hub,” citing 135 film and TV shoots since 2015 and spending $185 million over a seven-year period.

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Mahesh said the Sault needed “an ongoing investment in infrastructure,” either a purpose-built studio or a converted building of about 30,000 square feet.

Film and TV production in Ontario totaled $2.9 billion in 2021. The “vast majority” of those dollars goes to US shows.

We make Canada look like America,” Mahesh said, but adds that streaming services are looking for original stories north of the border.

Northern Ontario has a lot of interesting stories to tell,” he said.

Nearly $400 million has been spent on nearly 100 productions in the North, starting with Parry Sound last year.

Ontario is one of the best places in the world to make movies, but Toronto is full,” Mahesh said. “There is no more space available in the Toronto studios to make a film.

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If you are able to obtain this permanent infrastructure, because there is no other availability, you will receive telephone calls from people who want to make films here. There is a void to be filled. »

Support from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation helps attract productions to the region.

There’s a craze for Canadian stories now,” Mahesh said. “What we’re seeing happening now outside of major urban centers is more interesting, I think, for global audiences.”

Streaming services, like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV, are “looking for non-urban stories in Canada.”

The Lake, streaming on Amazon Prime Video, was filmed in North Bay. The first season had eight episodes.

According to the general manager of Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce. These ventures, he adds, take their place alongside an established cultural community that filmmakers can draw from.

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Sault Ste. Marie has always had a very, very strong arts and culture community, theater community and music community,” said Rory Ring. “It really helps to support a lot of activities that take place in the film industry and pre- and post-production, as well as filming and filming activities.”

Doing something different,” rather than “trying to copy” other northern communities in trying to attract projects is crucial, he adds.

If all you’re doing is trying to compete with the same communities, in the same format, with the same offerings, you’re going to struggle,” Ring said. “We have to be competitive by differentiating ourselves.”

He suggests that the nearby lakes “give us a little bit of a competitive edge” and that the Twin Saults team up on sets “to really leverage effective positioning.”

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More film and TV shoots in the city would boost results for a ‘vast majority’ of the more than 600 members of the business group which is ‘quite heavy’ with businesses focused on food, accommodation and hospitality. service sector that can help productions.

It’s really a lot of small businesses that are going to benefit,” Ring said.

He arrived while filming the drama, Warrior Strong, starring Andrew Dice Clay (A Star is Born, Entourage) and Sarah Podemski (Reservation Dogs, Moccasin Flats), when he visited GFL Memorial Gardens on August 24 to get COVID-19 rapid tests.

Michael Hennessy is “definitely” encouraged by Stardust Pictures’ opening of its Sault location.

Having a studio here would be fabulous,” he said.

The theater director volunteered as a props man while filming Looking for Angelina in the city in 2004.

At the time, he said he was excited for more film projects to come to town and told the Sault Star “it would be amazing” if the town didn’t look for more opportunities.

“Let’s strike while the iron is hot and not sit around waiting for the momentum to die down,” Hennessy said. “Let’s not lose this. It’s an incredible opportunity.

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On Twitter: @Saultreporter

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