Sudbury gets studio to sustain production boom

"We've got a studio up here," David Anselmo told Playback during a tour of Northern Ontario Film Studios, a single span, 20,000 square foot sound stage that plugs a gap in the local production scene.

After a generous film subsidy program first lured film and TV shoots to Sudbury in growing numbers, a local consortium has converted a derelict hockey arena into a new film studio.

David Anselmo, CEO of Hideaway Pictures, unveiled the Northern Ontario Film Studios in Sudbury to the industry during the recent Cinefest film festival.

The goal is enabling film and TV crews to shoot year-round in northern Ontario.

“We’ve got a studio up here,” Anselmo told Playback during a tour of Northern Ontario Film Studios, as the single span 20,000 square foot sound stage plugs a gap in the northern Ontario production sector.

Anselmo and his business partners have leased and refurbished the old arena from the city for three years, as they look to build a permanent studio locally.

The Sudbury native, who acted in South Korea, including in Bong Joon-ho’s popular film The Host, returned to Canada three years ago to make movies locally.

His first project was Northern Boys, about growing up in a small northern mining town.

Anselmo wasn’t alone. The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund has seen a host of movies shoot partly on location in Sudbury in recent years, including Casey Walker’s A Little Bit Zombie, the Andy Garcia-starrer The Truth and Anita Doron’s The Lesser Blessed.

And on the TV side, indie producer Black Walk shot Dark Rising, a one-hour sci-fi series, in Sudbury this past summer.

“It’s based on the incentives, paired with the Ontario tax credit,” he said of foreign and Canadian producers tapping grants and loans available to them via the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund’s emerging technology fund.

But Anselmo saw Sudbury losing film and TV shoots if projects weren’t able to shoot 12 months of the year.

So the arena was turned into a soundstage and a controlled shooting environment, with team dressing rooms turned into production offices and space for a green room, carpentry, hair/make up and wardrobe.

The arena’s game clock still hangs amid the hustle and bustle of pre-production for Leah Walker’s upcoming Dead Weight movie shoot in October.

But grafitti on the building’s exterior was covered up with paint murals depicting Hollywood stars to present a clean sheen to the Northern Ontario Film Studios as Anselmo and his team drum up more tenants for the facility.

Anselmo is also working with local educational institutions to train more grips, gaffers, camera assistants, production managers and set decorators to feed the pipeline of projects looking to shoot on his soundstage.

“We do have crews up here. We’d like to have more,” he explained.

Anselmo added his long-term goal is to have local filmmakers like himself be able to tell local stories, rather than need as he did to go elsewhere for work and a career.

“I had to leave to be a filmmaker, and that took me to the far reaches of the world,” he insisted.

“The Ontario tax credit is huge. The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund is huge. We’re three hours from Toronto,” Anselmo added, underlining the underpinnings of a local production sector now sustained by the Sudbury studio.

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