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Durham: Production paradise

Durham Region offers reputable crews and the backing of over 600 support businesses, in addition to highly adaptable environments that ideally capture any era or subject matter.

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Durham: Production paradise

Durham Region offers reputable crews and the backing of over 600 support businesses, in addition to highly adaptable environments that ideally capture any era or subject matter.
Inspired by early 20th century Beaux-Arts design, Parkwood National Heritage Site is the ideal location for period and fantasy films, as well as historical documentaries.

Inspired by early 20th century Beaux-Arts design, Parkwood National Heritage Site is the ideal location for period and fantasy films, as well as historical documentaries.

Spanning from Pickering to Bowmanville, Ontario and spread over 25,000 sq km, Durham Region features a blend of versatile and picturesque landscapes for film, TV or digital production.

The numbers don’t lie: in 2018, Durham Region – a 45-minute drive from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport – hosted 102 projects worth an estimated $52.9 million in production value, accounting for 392 days of shooting.

“That’s an all-time high,” reports Eileen Kennedy, Film Liaison and Economic Development Officer for Durham Region.

“We’re increasing by an average of 28% per year – and an overall increase of 168% since 2012. Companies are spending more time filming in Durham because they find what they need here.”

The home for major motion pictures It and It: Chapter Two, X-Men and Chicago and Emmy-nominated TV series like Schitt’s Creek, The Handmaid’s Tale, Orphan Black, and the internationally-syndicated Murdoch Mysteries, Durham Region offers production companies, reputable crews and the backing of over 600 support businesses, in addition to its close proximity to Toronto. Film Durham’s new Production Guide profiles highly adaptable environments that ideally capture any era or subject matter.

For period shoots, Docville Wild West Movie Set (left) replicates the look and feel of a frontier settlement and Pickering Museum Village (right) brings the pioneer experience to life.

For period shoots, Docville Wild West Movie Set (left) replicates the look and feel of a frontier settlement and Pickering Museum Village (right) brings the pioneer experience to life.

Want to film a Western? The privately-owned eight-acre Wild West movie set of Docville – located in Newcastle – comes with its own period hotel, saloon, jail, bordello and authentic props. Interiors and exteriors can be dressed to your specification.

For more elegant digs, there’s stately Parkwood National Heritage Site, the former estate of Canadian auto baron R.S. McLaughlin.

“We have plateaus where you can enjoy full 360-degree views and we border on three lakes,” Kennedy notes. “We have quaint downtowns – that’s what producers look for a lot here – small downtown locations that can replicate Western America.”

“We have rustic train stations, modern buildings like the Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery and the Elizabethan-styled
Trafalgar Castle that was built in 1859. We have The Ontario Regiment Museum, Canada’s largest military museum, frozen Lake Scugog for winter shoots and LaFarge’s Quarry, which was recently used to represent Africa in National Geographic Explorer’s The Secret History of Gold.”

From Uxbridge's quaint downtown (left) to Oshawa's urban streetscapes (right,) Durham offers the perfect backdrop for any production.

From Uxbridge’s quaint downtown (left) to Oshawa’s urban streetscapes (right,) Durham offers the perfect backdrop for any production.

That’s just a hint of what’s to come: in 2020, construction is expected to begin on TriBro Studios Pickering, Durham’s first state-of-the-art film studio, located just south of the 401 as part of the massive “DLive” casino, hotel, dining and entertainment complex near Lake Ontario.

“TriBro, a high-security, 285,000 sq. ft., world class complex, will include the world’s largest purpose-built soundstage at 80,000 sq. ft., a water tank stage, an additional 200,000 sq. ft. of production office space and 60,000 sq. ft. of construction and carpentry shops,” Kennedy enthuses.

In the meantime, Film Durham remains relentless in cutting through the red tape for smooth and stressfree permit approvals.

“We have a very quick turnaround,” says Kennedy. “Permits for Durham and most municipalities cost zero dollars.”

Kennedy has also negotiated discounted film crew rates with the Durham Region Hotel Association.

“We assist production companies to get permits, find locations and accommodations on time and on budget. We create a very positive experience for clients so that they’ll come back for repeat business.”