Ottawa Film Office launches process for building a new sound stage on Woodroffe Ave. site

Ottawa Film Office sound stage

The Ottawa Film Office (OFO) has announced that it is accepting expressions of interest for its initiative to build a sound stage facility in the city. 

In a press release Tuesday, the not-for-profit organization encouraged interested parties to make submissions for a purpose-built sound stage that “aligns with the OFO’s vision to position Ottawa as a recognized, full-service production destination.”

The organization said submissions should include feedback on the project, organizational and project experience, financial investment expectations, and a suggested financing strategy. 

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Submissions will be accepted until April 5. The OFO added that the request for expression of interest is not a request for proposals, but instead a means to find potential partners and solicit feedback on the project. 

The idea of bringing a sound stage to Ottawa has included many false starts and failed proposals over several decades. 

In 2018, the OFO announced its proposal to build a $40-million sound stage and creative hub on the site of the former Greenbelt Research Farm on Woodroffe Avenue across from the Nepean Sportsplex. The land has been leased from the National Capital Commission, and the OFO is looking for developers, OFO film commissioner Sandrine Pechels de Saint Sardos told OBJ in a recent interview.

The site includes 22 acres of land. OFO said its vision includes a “a purpose-built facility,” that would total 60,000 to 80,000 square feet, housing three 20,000-square-foot sound stages. 

The goal is to make Ottawa a “full-service production haven for the film and television industry,” said Jeff Westeinde, chair of the OFO sound stage subcommittee and partner at THEIA Partners, in today’s press release.

“These purpose-driven sound stages set an industry standard, providing a controlled environment for 24-hour uninterrupted creativity amidst seasonal changes,” he said in the release. “Tailored to Ottawa’s skilled workforce, this state-of-the-art facility not only meets industry demands but also unlocks opportunities for workforce capacity and regional development.”

While 2023 was a tough year for the industry, leading to a slight drop in revenue, the city’s local continues to thrive and grow, according to Pechels de Saint Sardos.

“We are really expanding,” she said. “In 2022, the industry generated around $130 million in revenue. That’s huge. Despite global challenges in 2023, the city successfully completed over 40 productions, and we predict 2024 would be a record year.”

As a locale, the city’s diverse offerings have made it an attractive place to shoot, and a particular favourite for Hallmark and Christmas productions. The city offers everything from quaint small town charm and rural countrysides, to cityscapes and suburbs. 

“Whenever I pitch Ottawa, I say Ottawa is the world in one place. It’s so versatile and it has so much potential. You can have it all and you don’t have to go that far,” she said. “In Ottawa, we not only offer picturesque landscapes and a skilled workforce, but also a financial landscape designed to propel your cinematic and TV visions to new heights.”

Adding a sound stage would only make Ottawa more attractive to producers, including larger production companies and streamers. 

“It will put Ottawa on the map as a great destination for filmmakers,” said Pechels de Saint Sardos. “It will increase revenue for economic development.”

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe also expressed his support for the project. 

“This purpose-built sound stage will be more than just a space, it has the potential to become a real production hub offering turn-key solutions that will meet the demands of the film, television, animation and streaming industry, right here in Ottawa,” he said in a release. “It’s very exciting for the industry, and for Ottawa, becoming a choice location for filmmakers.”

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