Construction of a cutting-edge 20,000-square-foot film soundstage is underway in Wahnapitae First Nation thanks to a collaboration between a local Indigenous-owned multimedia company, White Owl Film Studios, and Volume Global, a film production company based in Los Angeles, Calif.
The $3 million soundstage features a 35-foot-high clear span and will be located in the First Nation community situated 50 km north of Sudbury. Construction of the studio is expected to be completed and operational by January — with projects already lined up for the rest of the year.
Volume Global is also constructing an additional air-supported pop-up soundstage on the property, designed to meet the needs of productions in the North, where many filmmakers gravitate because of available tax incentives.
The state-of-the-art facility offers the square footage required for set construction and virtual production, with a turnaround time of 120 days. Two television series are already scheduled to lease the pop-up soundstage. The film series Deerslayer, a prequel to The Last of the Mohicans and directed by Michael Mann, will be one of the first film projects to utilize the pop-up space.
“We came up to Sudbury three or four years ago and tried to implement this (project) but it didn’t work out for many reasons,” said Chris Harrington, long-time film producer and co-founder of Volume Global.
At that point, Harrington had produced about a dozen feature films in the Parry Sound area (2012 to 2016) and realized that the North lacked necessary infrastructure for the film industry. But a chance meeting with Roy Roque at an industry producer event in Sudbury set in motion the plan to build the facility on Wahnapitae First Nation territory.
Roque worked in mining, construction, hospitality and in other sectors before launching White Owl Film Studios, an Indigenous-owned multimedia company in Wahnapitae First Nation, where he has been a resident since 1988.
What made working with Roque and his community more ideal was not having to deal with the red tape associated with a municipal government, said Harrington.
“That is the core reason why we are able to move as fast as we are,” he said.
That reason, coupled with the community’s close proximity to the airport and a soon-to-be built helipad and road upgrades, made the partnership that much more attractive, said the two entrepreneurs.
“We like to think outside of the box and do different things,” said Roque. “Way back in 1992 in Wahnapitae First Nation, there was no hydro, no water, no telephones and we built a licenced restaurant on the lake running off of generators. You know the old adage, build it and they will come? I think that’s going to happen here.”
Roque said the entire project has been reviewed and approved by the Wahnapitae First Nation chief and council.
“The whole community seems to be excited with the project, especially with the amount of jobs (coming),” said Roque. “A lot of First Nations in Northern Ontario have smoke stores, gas stations, cannabis stores, but the film industry is out there and great jobs can come.”
The soundstage will employ a team of six to 12 people; however, when film projects come in, that could bring in an additional 150 or more jobs, depending on the type of project. Plus, there are potential economic spinoffs in the First Nation and surrounding communities, said Roque.
Harrington said he is confident the film studio and community will become a hub of film activity come 2024. The studio is already booked for its first 14 months, he said.
“We didn’t come in here really with the sole idea that build it and they will come,” said Harrington. “We came in with the idea that we need to build it because we need the space for our projects. That’s a critical thing with this business model.”
However, Harrington sees greater potential with the space in the community.
“We want this to be a creative destination,” he said. “We want a story village, a place where people can come and write something, produce it, post it and distribute, all right there.”
Roque added: “It’s an opportunity for everyone here in Northern Ontario.”
According to a release, Volume Global is known for crafting pioneering air-supported pop-up soundstages and in modular design, scalability, operations, and LED volume workflows. In collaboration with Voltron Global, Volume Global has also undertaken the design and construction of a cutting-edge LED Volume wall in Regina, Sask., for a six-episode action TV series. This marks the company’s inaugural Mini LED Volume project in Canada.
In addition, in April, Volume Global opened the world’s first air column-supported soundstage in Yonkers, N.Y., in partnership with Great Point Studios and Lionsgate Entertainment.
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
By Laura Stradiotto, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 28, 2023 at 01:09