The Hollywood production company responsible for the Star Trek and Mission: Impossible movies is opening a major film studio complex in a former newspaper plant in Surrey. The new studio will initially be used for production of a Netflix science-fiction series, but Surrey's mayor says the move is a major development for the production sector in B.C.'s second-largest city.
Mayor Linda Hepner said Thursday in her annual State of the City Address that Skydance Media is converting the former Pacific Newspaper Group printing-press building in Surrey into a complex with five sound stages – the first studio complex in the growing city southeast of Vancouver.
"A studio is a big deal for us," Ms. Hepner told reporters after her speech to hundreds of business people and community leaders – her second since being elected mayor. "There's lots of economic spinoff opportunities and it also speaks to the creative city and a reputation I want to get out there that we're building on the arts and culture in the city as well as technology and innovation within the jobs arena."
The complex will host a staff of up to 400 for production over several years on the Netflix series Altered Carbon, adapted from the 2002 cyberpunk novel by Richard Morgan.
The series is set in the 25th century, and has long been a passion project for its scriptwriter, Laeta Kalogridis, a writer on the feature films Shutter Island and Terminator Genisys. It will star Joel Kinnaman, who previously worked in B.C. on the series The Killing.
Ms. Hepner relished the sci-fi nature of the studio's first project. "What better place to tell a story about a city of the future than right here in Surrey, a real city of the future," she said in her speech.
The mayor later told reporters she has been talking to Skydance for some time. Surrey has long been a production centre for the booming film and TV sector in the province – the city's slick and stylish new city hall and square is a popular location for such series as The Flash and The 100. But Ms. Hepner said she wanted a studio space to bolster the sector.
"We have been trying for some time to get a studio to come directly to Surrey," she said. "They like this location. They like the Pacific Press building. They like the land around it and it is their intention to stay," Ms. Hepner said.
Her office later noted Skydance anticipates being in production for eight years in association with Netflix, although it was not clear whether that is solely for Altered Carbon or for other projects. The Skydance office in Hollywood was closed Thursday for the rest of the week.
The mayors' office said that the city issued 97 permits in 2015, which led to 193 days of filming, and that it has issued 67-per-cent more permits between January and April of this year than in the same period last year.
The Skydance commitment comes after the B.C. government announced it would be trimming tax credits it offers the production sector. a move that raised some concerns about the future prospects of an up-and-down industry. The sector is now on an up cycle with recent productions such as the feature film Deadpool and this summer's Star Trek Beyond – a Skydance film. Other ups have included news that the U.S. TV series Supergirl is, this fall, shifting production to Vancouver from Los Angeles – a move that will mean hundreds of production jobs. That development was hailed by the B.C. government.
Peter Leitch, president of North Shore Studios and Mammoth Studios and chair of the Motion Picture Production Association of B.C., said on Thursday that the Skydance commitment is a major development for Surrey and the B.C. production sector.
"It's going to be a significant studio. They're going to have to spend money on improvements, which they will do. It will be something that will put a stake in the ground for Surrey and attract additional infrastructure," he said. "It's good for the industry in terms of spreading the infrastructure around."
Mr. Leitch also noted that Surrey is home to many workers in the production sector, raising the prospect of new job opportunities in their area of the Lower Mainland.
Although, in theory, the Skydance plan could be seen as competition for his business, Mr. Leitch said it was a terrific development. "We're excited about it – happy to have it there."