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'Built to produce': Big Sky Studios ready to bring large film productions to Manitoba

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A new film and television studio space in Winnipeg is opening its doors next week, hoping to attract large-scale film and television productions to Manitoba.

Located at 1771 Inkster Boulevard, Big Sky Studios contains everything needed for modern film and television production. It's a one-stop-shop for movie and TV studios in Hollywood and around the world, according to developer Ed Kolic.

"It's been a very large retrofit of an existing building," he said. "The scale was pretty large."

Kolic says the 167,000-square-foot facility will contain four large sound stages, a mill and paint shop for constructing sets, a wardrobe department with dye and laundry capabilities, prop storage, and office space for production staff.

Phase 1 of construction is now complete, with the doors opening next week on everything except two of the larger sound stages.

"It's well under construction, the shell is up, and it's all enclosed now. That will be ready in December," said Kolic.

He says this type of studio space is a big step up for Manitoba's film industry, saying Winnipeg now reminds him of Vancouver in the late 1990s.

Phase 1 of construction is now complete, with the doors opening next week on everything except two of the larger sound stages. (Source: Jamie Dowsett, CTV News Winnipeg)

"Once the first piece of infrastructure comes into play, it will attract business. I've seen it happen in Vancouver," Kolic said. "(it's a) piece of infrastructure that has the scale to attract larger productions, and that's what we're bringing to the table here."

He says in the past, Winnipeg-based productions had to find suitable warehouse space in order to shoot indoors, something that wasn't always easy.

"It might not be heated, or it might not be insulated properly, didn’t have the proper sound insulation. Our spaces are all soundproofed and built to produce," said Kolic.

He says the facilities are state-of-the-art, able to handle any size production.

"It's extremely high quality, it's as good as you're going to find," he said.

The doors officially open next Friday, Sept. 16, but Kolic says they have not booked any productions yet.

"What we’ve found is that we have to have doors open. Because it’s a construction site, we couldn’t commit to a hard date, and productions need a hard start date."

The doors officially open next Friday, Sept. 16, but Kolic says they have not booked any productions yet. (Source: Jamie Dowsett, CTV News Winnipeg)

He says Winnipeg did miss out on a new HBO show because construction could not be finished in time.

"They went off to Iceland. A very large production, but they seriously considered Winnipeg," said Kolic.

He's hoping the new facility will attract larger productions to Manitoba, the kind that will spend $30-50 million in the community.

Manitoba Film and Sound is also planning to promote the new studio space by hosting a reception at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

"About 300-400 industry people come and attend, and we're the sponsor of that. That’s kind of our launch into that market," said Kolic, "Letting the Canadian production community know that 'hey we're here and we're open.'"

More information can be found at the Big Sky Studios website.

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