B.C.’s Okanagan Studio for sale

Despite the closure, film commissioner Jon Summerland says the region is prepped for a busy year ahead.
Okanagan Studios

After officially opening its doors in Vernon, B.C. in November 2016, full-service film and TV facility, Okanagan Studio, is up for sale.

The 50,000-square-foot facility housed two sound stages, office space and a 12,500 square-foot warehouse.

Tim Bieber, general manager of the studio told Playback Daily over email that he decided to sell the facility in fall 2017, after only two smaller productions used the space while it was open. Regina-based Minds Eye Entertainment and California’s Bridgegate Pictures’ shot portions of the co-production The Recall at Okanagan Studios, while Sepia Films’ MOW Drink Slay Love also filmed at the facility.

“There’s a lot of medium-budget film production happening in the Okanagan, with a thriving community, that I was hoping we could leverage into additional volume and attracting larger productions but I was unable to gain these commitments,” said Bieber.

Okanagan film commissioner Jon Summerland told Playback Daily that the studio’s closure is largely due to the structure of the facility. He said when a 26-person delegation of studio owners, producers, union and government representatives from Vancouver came to visit the studio last fall, they had concerns.

“When they visited the studio they informed the owners that it would never work as a soundstage. They stated the reasons were that the building’s ceilings were too low [and] the pillars were too hard to avoid the noise from the nearby highway, [which] was a major problem,” he said in an email.

He stressed that the sale of the studio will not affect the region’s film business, which he says is booming. In 2016, B.C. cut its basic production film and TV tax credit from 33% down to 28%, however regional tax credits were not cut. Productions that shoot outside of the Greater Vancouver area receive an additional 12% in tax credits.

According to Summerland, the region hosted 28 live-action productions in 2017, not including low-budget indie shows (which he says are on the rise).

“It should be mentioned as well that we had another empty warehouse in Kelowna that hosted six features last year. We have a full crew working 10 months of the year. It’s looking like 2018 could be the biggest year yet,” Summerland said.

The region also hosted the production of multiple animated shows, though figures are not yet available. The Okanagan Valley is home to animation studios Yeti Farm Creative and Bardel Entertainment.

The commissioner also said the goal for the new year will be to grow the crew base, add new infrastructure and bring in another boutique animation studio.

Although Okanagan Studios has shut its doors, Bieber said he still believes the region will be an attractive filming location for series and large features in the future due to the work being done by Okanagan’s film commission, the local skilled crew and locations the area has to offer.