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$242M Vancouver Island film studio coming soon to slopes of the Malahat

Project on Malahat Nation land aims to expand local film industry with sustainable focus
Victoria-based production company Alpha Select Production Services is spearheading the Vancouver Island Production Studio project. photo

By Sidney Coles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter CAPITAL DAILY

Vancouver Island’s film industry is about to enter a new stage with a major film studio complex on Malahat Nation territory.

Construction on the $242-million new carbon-neutral, zero-waste movie complex, to be built near an industrial park on the western shores of Saanich Inlet, is expected to begin toward the end of the year.

It will be built in three phases, with the first to include two sound stages, a workshop, and a pair of production offices.

‍”I want this to be a film studio that people want to work at and come to for $100-200 million productions,” Beverley Dondale, founder and CEO of Victoria-based production company Alpha Select Production Services, said.

“I want this to be a hub for Indigenous and domestic film production.”

Vancouver Island, unlike other film production hubs in B.C., has moderate weather to allow crews to work throughout the year. As a result, the new Island film studio has the potential to make a real economic impact on the south Island economy.

“I want the studio to create a thriving, innovative circular economy,” Dondale said.

The region’s economic prospects look good but film studios’ environmental impacts aren’t always positive. Films with budgets of $70 million produce an average of 2,840 tonnes of CO2 per production. That amount of CO2 takes 3,700 acres of forest to absorb the equivalent in a year. Film studios and directors are working to be more sustainable.

Dondale hopes to take a page from She-Hulk director Kat Coiro’s sustainability playbook.

Coiro, who recently filmed The Spiderwick Chronicles for Disney+ in Vancouver, has been working for years, not only to reduce waste on her production sites but to ensure the depictions of making better environmental choices for her audiences. No crew or characters in her TV or film productions use single-use plastics or non-recyclable take-out containers.

“We want to eliminate single-use plastics and to re-useable containers by working with organizations like the Nulla Project,” Dondale said.

The Nulla Project is a Victoria headquartered company that provides reusable (washable) cups, containers, and coffee mugs service to organizations or events across Vancouver Island.

Victoria theatre costume and set designers take note:

“I want creatives repairing textiles, reusing, and donating costumes to local theatres. We want our construction materials to be reused or donated to other productions and to the community,” Dondale said.

For Malahat Nation, getting ready to house such a project on its territory is significant.

“To get a project of this scale going in a region where we don’t have a lot of infrastructure to start with—it’s meant building water infrastructure, wastewater infrastructure, power, communications infrastructure and also making sure the right transportation networks are ready to make things work here,” said Malahat Nation CAO Josh Handysides.

Dondale first conceived the project in 2010 and approached the Coast Salish Indigenous community with her proposal to build on an 85-acre (34 ha-) site. Maple Reinders Constructors Ltd. has been retained to develop it.

Alpha Select is hoping the project obtains a Certified B Corp designation, which means the studio meets specific performance requirements across environmental, social, and governance policies. Dondale said for her, the designation is about production.

“Public transparency, posting yearly impact reports—-this instills confidence that we are not just `greenwashing’ by having policies and procedures in place so things don’t slip between the cracks.”

READ ALSO: Huge film studio development proposed for Malahat Nation lands