I was fortunate indeed to find myself on a tour of Calgary’s new Film Studio yesterday, with Ron Devitt, Wayne Bradford, Gerrick Winston & Neil Enock.
Studio boss Erin O’Connor showed a stalwart group of local Independent filmmakers through the facility and Sean from William White also gave us a run-down on their new digs.
(Proper tours are being planned – stay tuned, I’ll pass it on when they are available)
Calgary’s new digs are impressive, and are already in use. We wanted to see what had been created and what it could mean for us. Since we were somehow left off the opening gala invitation list, we invited ourselves along. 😉
Stage 1 is 20,000 feet of studio goodness, built with state-of-the-art filming in mind. (That little green dot is a full size lift!) All the specs for the studio are available on the Calgary Film Studio website, so I won’t repeat them here. The think I will tell you is that no pictures or video will really do the space justice. As soon as tours are available, you need to get yourself down there and ‘feel’ the space.
Although it hasn’t been open long, the studio has already seen it’s share of activity. Even while we were there, Studio 2 was in use by ‘Tin Star’ and had several sets under construction. We had a quick look at the studio space but it would be inappropriate to discuss or share.
We have all worked on make-shift Studio stages in productions in Calgary before, and we wanted to see how a purpose-built facility might differ from what we’d seen before. While the previous stages have done their job admirably, it’s easy to see how having everything in one space and properly equipped will not only save money, but massive amounts of time.
This is something that people coming in from LA or Toronto may know, but for local filmmakers it can be a real eye-opener.
A central spline connects all three stages with common washrooms. Even the transformers are located in the spline to further reduce the any possible noise in the stages. Extra warehouse space available in the main building can serve as offices, craft services, shop spaces, or anything else that’s needed.
Independent Film Making at The Calgary Film Centre
The Centre is quite new and still getting going. While their mandate to support local filmmakers is clearly present as al times, even we understand the need for the centre to do well as a whole. As big productions book space, it could become more challenging to get studio space when you need it.
This could also work to our advantage, if there are two big productions with a short gap between them the centre might be interested in working with you to fill that gap with your independent film!
I’d suggest the following:
- As soon as tours are offered: Take one! Trust me, you need to ‘feel’ the space.
- If you need the space – book it! You can book without payment and hold a spot. This is not frivolous though, if someone else wants the space, you will need to pony up the 50% to keep your spot, so be prepared.
- Talk. Like most things in this business a short conversation with Erin or anyone at the Centre will go a long way to sorting things out. You never know until you ask.
- These are big spaces. If you need less room, maybe you can co-ordinate with other Indie filmmakers to share the space. It’s just an idea…
William F. White at The Calgary Film Centre
The day concluded with another impromptu tour, This time of the new William F. White facility and store. The synergy of having them on the same lot as the studio is immediately obvious. While I was never in their old facility I found the new one to be a well-organized treasure trove of filming goodness. Sean and the folks there gave me a new appreciation for what they can (and do) provide for the independent and professional filmmaker.
One last thing. The store at William F. Whites is another gem. The new space has allowed Chris Harding to better display all the items they offer for sale. Our trip quickly became a shopping trip and we spent far more time than we’d planned there. Interestingly enough, we did not spend as much money as I thought we might. It was a pleasant surprise to find the prices reasonable and very competitive.
All in all it was a very educational trip, and one that I would recommend you to take as soon as you can. Before it gets so busy that closed sets will prevent the experience from being as inclusive as it is today.
Your an independent filmmaker. Take the tour, imagine filming here… Mayhem. (Sorry about that).