Hollywood arrives in Surrey with sci-fi action in former Kennedy Heights printing press building (photos)

Opening of Skydance Studio means business for those shooting new ‘Altered Carbon’ TV series

The Skydance Studio opening event in Surrey on Tuesday (Sept. 20) saw a ribbon-cutting by film company CEO David Ellison (right)

The Skydance Studio opening event in Surrey on Tuesday (Sept. 20) saw a ribbon-cutting by film company CEO David Ellison (right)

SURREY — There will be plenty of “lights, camera, action” inside the former Kennedy Heights press building starting this fall.

Giant ceremonial scissors were used to cut a grand-opening ribbon on Tuesday afternoon (Sept. 20) at Skydance Media’s 75,000-square-foot new studio, located in the 88th-Avenue print hall once operated by Pacific Newspaper Group.

Hollywood types, local film-industry folks and a gaggle of politicians gathered to celebrate the arrival of a big-time film company in Surrey.

And Skydance isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, CEO David Ellison promised.

“We look forward to a very long history here,” he said.

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“We began looking for a space a little over a year ago, maybe 18 months, and we were very fortunate to find this one.”

Ellison’s aviator glasses made sense, given the afternoon sun and his history of flying aerobatics since age 13. He and his family called it “skydancing” – hence the name for the company’s latest investment, estimated to inject $100 million a year into the local economy, including 400 jobs.

On Tuesday, crew members worked to build sets for “Altered Carbon,” a sci-fi TV series set to air on Netflix.

The show, set in the 25th century and based on Richard Morgan’s award-winning 2002 novel of the same title, stars Joel Kinniman as an interstellar warrior who is “downloaded into a future he’d tried to stop.”

The Surrey studio houses five sound stages, including one hailed as one of the world’s longest and tallest such stages, at 460 feet long and 50 feet high.

“We’re building a city street from San Francisco 500 years into the future,” said John Lenic, producer of “Altered Carbon,” during a media tour of the studio.

“That was the big set piece we had to house and what we were looking for here.

“We’ll put in rain towers to make it rain at any time, with drainage under the set,” he added.

(PICTURED: “Altered Carbon” producer John Lenic in the big sound stage being constructed at Skydance Studios in Surrey. Photo: Tom Zillich)

The building has been altered to house an entire film production, including space for production offices space, costume shop, set decoration, stunts, special effects, a training facility for the actors and more, Lenic said.

“It’s made to house either one massive production or two to three smaller productions,” he said. “It’s pretty unique.… Our show shoots until next July, and maybe at that time, if Skydance wants to put another show in here, hopefully we’ll be able to clear out one of the sets and the stages for that.”

The arrival of Skydance in Surrey will boost the current flurry of filming activity here, with a record-breaking year forecast. More than 150 film permits have been issued in 2016 so far, easily outpacing the 97 granted in 2015, the city’s previous benchmark.

“With a studio like this, they’re also going to be coming out into the community and filming at other locations around Surrey, if they can’t use the studio for a scene,” said James Monk, the city’s film-industry liaison.

“There is a lot of buzz about Skydance opening this facility, not only in the general public but in the production world, too,” Monk added.

TV shows like “Prison Break,” “Supergirl” and “The Flash” helped account for the 219 days of filming in Surrey this year, along with the feature film “Why We’re Killing Gunther,” which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger.

tom.zillich@thenownewspaper.com

Studio entrance off 88th Avenue in Surrey. Photo: Tom Zillich

Crews work on sets inside Skydance Studios in Surrey. Photo: Tom Zillich

Politicians and film-industry employees pose for a photo outside Skydance Studios in Surrey during its opening event on Tuesday, Sept. 20. Photo: Rick Chapman/City of Surrey

Construction work in a sound stage at Skydance Studios in Surrey. Photo: Tom Zillich