A film production company called North Star Studios has acquired a property in North Bay's West Ferris industrial park that will house the region's largest film and studio space.
The company's president said its $26-million investment will create a foothold for the local film and television industry for years to come.
Mitch Ouimette said when looking at the facilities and services to be provided to production teams "there is no place that is going to match what is going to come out of North Bay. This city will become the desire of Toronto; we're going to aim to compete with the likes of Atlanta and the likes of London. Toronto will become a passing thought by the time we're done building our infrastructure here."
The initial construction will see five film and television stages take up 68,000 of the 100,000 square feet available in the former Epiroc building on Ferris Drive.
The facility will also include office space for the production companies to use. The project will immediately create 25 to 30 permanent positions, plus associated construction jobs.
"We've become the victim of our own success before we can even open the door and take the [Epiroc] name off," said Ouimette. "We already have to start looking at expansion."
Canadore College will continue to provide trained individuals to support the television and film industry.
Canadore president George Burton said the college is pleased that North Star Studios is establishing a presence in North Bay. The school looks forward to developing a relationship with the studio and production companies to meet their needs and provide training and mentorship opportunities for students.
North Star has also struck a 24-month, $150-million film and television production deal with an ORWO Family production company that it estimates will result in $60 million in direct spending into the local economy and the potential to eventually create up to 1,000 new full-time jobs.
According to ORWO Family vice-chairman Jake SeaI, one of the draws to North Bay for his United Kingdom-based company was the strong, decade-long relationship with Burton and Canadore — and the various tax benefits to filming in Northern Ontario.
Several times Seal credited the geographical beauty of the local area as desirable for filming productions that require a seasonal touch of weather.
"I love it. There is such a wide range of backgrounds," he said.
"It is so beautiful and simple and pure. That's something that can't be underestimated. You go to certain popular film jurisdictions and they don't have that sort of geography, and yet, you drive three hours north of Toronto, and as soon as you're out of that traffic, it's beautiful the whole way, like a picture-perfect postcard. That's what we call production value in the business and that's what we want to put on screen."
"This is stage one of a multi-stage process that will see a lot of new facilities in town," Ouimette advised.
North Star plans to expand its studio footprint in North Bay by adding 500,000 square feet of support space over the next five to seven years.
"This isn't a pipe dream down the road," said Ouimette. "The first production will start here this summer. We've got a full slate already planned out until the end of the year, and next year is already planned out, as well."
Seal would only tease this summer's production as featuring "two well-known actors, a male and a female." Stay tuned.