A huge film studio is being proposed for the Malahat, near Mill Bay.
The Malahat Nation is partnering with Victoria-based Alpha Select Production Services Inc. in the proposal to build an ambitious 80-acre studio project, which would be called Malahat Film Studios, on its land.
The project would include six world-class sound stages as well as related offices and workshops, a technical academy for apprenticeships and skills-transfer training, a business park, office park, and an industrial zone, as well as a shopping village and hotel.
At full scale, the project is forecast to provide 1,500 direct jobs for the region, which would make it among the top employers in the area.
Beverley Dondale, CEO of Alpha Select Production Services, and Josh Handysides, CAO of the Malahat Nation, recently appeared as a delegation to a meeting of the board at the Cowichan Valley Regional District and said the proposed project has completed the pre-feasibility stage and is now moving into the feasibility study stage with the potential of being completed in the next few years.
Dondale requested that the CVRD provide a letter of support regarding the project, stating that it is one of the last pieces of the puzzle her company’s investors require to provide funding.
A staff report from the district’s Economic Development Division indicated that the motion picture industry contributed $3.2 billion to the B.C. economy in 2018 to 2019.
The report said the direct economic impact of location-based film activity in the region in recent years is estimated to be several million dollars per year.
“Cowichan does not presently have a dedicated film studio. Economic Development Cowichan’s strategic plan identifies sector development goals related to film, including working toward the development of permanent film production facilities and film services in the Cowichan Valley,” the report said.
“The proposed Malahat Film Studio, if completed as envisioned, would act on this goal, and be a major economic driver for the region related to foreign direct investment, employment, and apprenticeship and training opportunities. The project would also impact the demand for housing, other development, and related services, in proximity to the site.”
The report concluded that the proposed project represents a significant economic opportunity for the region.
“Given the alignment with the EDC strategic plan, it would be appropriate for EDC staff to provide a letter of support to Malahat Nation for a proposed film and production studio,” it said.
Kate Marsh, a CVRD director from North Cowichan, said she is excited to see and imagine what the project would bring to the region.
“Seeing Mill Bay become a mecca for film is almost numbingly exciting,” she said.
CVRD Chairman Aaron Stone, who is also the mayor of Ladysmith, said he has had experience with the film industry after several filming projects in the town over the last few years.
“One of things I heard from those filming in Ladysmith was that they wished there was more studio space here, and they talked about the need for more storage space for their gear as well,” he said.
“This would be a great opportunity for the Island.”