Ridge movie studio buzzing

The Ridge Studios are booked until July says owner John Wittmayer.

John Wittmayer of The Ridge Studios on 224th Street is having to turn people away.

John Wittmayer of The Ridge Studios on 224th Street is having to turn people away.

A year ago, it was an empty hulk with a weird-looking roof making a dubious contribution to Maple Ridge’s downtown streetscape.

The multi-peaked roof is still there, and the former Haney Bingo Plex on 224th Street is buzzing with the movie business after the opening of The Ridge Studios a year ago.

“We’re booked up at the studio until July,” said owner John Wittmayer.

In the last few months, he’s turned away half a dozen companies wanting to use the studios for shooting. That happened as recently as Tuesday and Wednesday, when he turned shows away on both days.

Finding locations that will look like courthouses, police stations, mortuaries or CSI labs are hard to find throughout Metro Vancouver.

“I spent all last year building the business up. And it feels really awkward to me that I’m actually having to say sorry, turn these folks away,” Wittmayer said.

If a television series being shot there this month is re-signed for another 13 episodes, he’ll be booked for the rest of the year.

Since it opened, 18 movies have been shot at the studio, including Beverly Hills 90210, Kindergarten Cop 2, along with several made-for-TV movies.

Wittmayer said the extra six-per-cent tax credit offered against movie crew labour costs have led to the film industry’s growth outside Vancouver.

“That’s considerable.”

The low dollar is also a huge factor. But it was the tax incentives that helped spread the industry here, he added.

Being downtown is another bonus.

“There’s a lot going for this particular location that we think has contributed to our popularity.

“To have a community as film friendly as Maple Ridge is, takes a huge burden off film producers because they know they can come here and they’ll be welcomed as opposed to being turned away or having moratoriums or having huge issues every time they come into a community. It just isn’t worth it.”

Wittmayer now has about six people working at the studio, in management and working on the sets.

It also offers work experience on the sets for high school students.

The operation could expand in the spring as he looks at opening another studio of about 21,000 sq. feet.

He wants to keep the momentum going as a way of building the film industry here.

“The more business we do here … the more that we’ll build the infrastructure for filming in Maple Ridge.

“Then you begin to build a labour pool of skilled workers,” who will stay here.

Marg Johnson, film production liaison with the City of Maple Ridge, said 2016 has started out busier than last year.

So far this year, 14 productions have been shot in Maple Ridge, compared to 10 last January and February.

Disney XD is filming Mech-X4, a live-action adventure comedy, in at various locations in Maple Ridge and will be here until May.

Feature films such as Scorched Earth and Legends of Tomorrow were also done here.

“With pilot season starting up, plus the low Canadian dollar, I don’t see it slowing down at all,” Johnson said.

Josh Duchamel, Greg Kinnear, Giancarlo Esposito and Aaron Paul (the last two of Breaking Bad fame, are some of the names that have showed up in Maple Ridge.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Downtown businesses along 224 Street. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
E-commerce pilot program to help businesses in Maple Ridge

New program will help businesses build their online presence

Isabella Muzzolini said she is ‘honoured and excited’ to become a Georgia Bulldog. (Special to The News)
Soccer sensation signs southern scholarship

Maple Ridge’s Isabella Muzzolini will play for the Georgia Bulldogs next year

Maple Ridge artist Zoran Malinovski has a new online exhibition called What’s Happening. (Angie Malinovski/Special to The News)
Exhibition by Maple Ridge artist brings environment back to the forefront

Zoran Malinovski’s online exhibition called What’s Happening

Maureen Blamey is a seniors outreach social worker with the geriatrics team. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
New geriatrics team to help seniors in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

The Seniors Service Team was formed to improve the quality of life for pre-frail and frail, medically complex seniors

Baillie House long-term care is located at Ridge Meadows Hospital. (Google Maps)
Five people test positive for COVID-19 at Maple Ridge’s Baillie House

Long-term care facility is one month removed from its last outbreak

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon (Dec. 3) after an inmate escaped from corrections officers. The man was taken back into custody a short while later. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
UPDATE: Escapee in Abbotsford has twice been on the lam from authorities

Stephane Bissonnette escapes from corrections officers, but is arrested a short while later

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read