Movie biz finds new home in Pickering

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Call it Hollywood Northeast.

A new deal between Pickering and William F. White — outfitters of Canada’s film and TV industry — is helping fuel a boom in TV and film production in that city.

A swath of land north of Green River has been turned into the biggest backlot in Canada and is currently home to the filming of the new Jack Reacher series on Amazon.

(The Jack Reacher character, created in Lee Child’s novels, first hit the big screen in 2012 with Tom Cruise in the title role; with this new Amazon series, fans rejoiced at the casting of Alan Ritchson, who, at 6-foot-4, is closer to the Jack Reacher the author created.)

Under the new deal, as of Oct.1, William F. White will handle exclusive operation of the backlot through December 2026. There are two renewal options of two years apiece as well.

The overall rental revenue to the city is a potential $3.5 million.

William F. White is a national entity in Canada, with state-of-the production rental equipment and over a million-square-feet of production space. The company is a key player in the success of Canada’s domestic film and TV industry — It, The Shape of Water and The Handmaid’s Tale are just a few of the recent productions involving William F. White.

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Film and TV production in Ontario translates into more than $2 billion in annual revenues and about 45,000 jobs. The streets of Toronto, for example, were recently the scene of filming for DC Universe’s Titan series — which also happens to star Jack Reacher’s Alan Ritchson as Hawk/Hank Hill.

“This new private/public partnership aligns with Ontario’s ongoing commitment to be a leading film-friendly jurisdiction,” Justin Cutler, Ontario Creates Film Commissioner, said of the Pickering deal.

“This ‘backlot’ will be a valuable addition to Ontario’s high-caliber film infrastructure, adding to the 3.6-million-sq.-ft. of stage space already available to the industry, across the province.”

Film infrastructure brings substantial economic benefit to surrounding neighbourhoods, as the beneficiaries of downtown Toronto’s Leslieville film district can attest.

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Catherine Hodge, senior coordinator, development liaison at the city of Pickering, said Thursday that interest in Pickering from the film and TV industry has grown steadily over the years — and now all the pieces are in place.

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Hodge explained that the involved 90-acre backlot parcel is slated to become a destination park, but that is 10 years away.

“William F. White coming to the table was perfect,” said Hodge.

“We love their program on sustainability and a waste-free site. They contribute to the community with their re-use program, and their parent company has done work with alternative energy.

“It’s all in keeping with our own sustainability programs for Pickering,” she added.

The city of Pickering is already working with TriBro Studios, who are building and running four sound stages there.

Now adding William F. White, said Hodge, “Will only make it better, and bodes well for creating great jobs in our community.”

And of course, Durham College offers courses in post-production, which dovetails nicely with regard to mentorship and job creation within the industry itself.

“This is a huge opportunity for economic growth and community building,” said Hodge. “And not just for Pickering. It will have a positive impact on the entire region.”

lbraun@postmedia.com

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