When David Anselmo decided to pursue a career in the film industry, he had to leave a big part of himself behind.
“There are only three things I love in this world: my family, making movies, and Northern Ontario,” he said.
But to make movies he had to spend a decade abroad, in Europe and Asia, half a world away from his family and the North.
“Because you’re so far away you miss life,” he said.
When he heard the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation would start to offer financial incentives to film productions in the North, Anselmo decided it was time to return home.
In 2009, he founded his production company, Hideaway Pictures, and in 2012 he launched Northern Ontario Film Studios.
Thanks to an arrangement with the City of Greater Sudbury, Northern Ontario Film Studios was able to take up residence in the abandoned Barrydowne Arena in New Sudbury.
After major renovations in the summer of 2014, the studio has reached full operating capacity, and includes a 16,000-square-foot studio and close to 4,000 square feet of production office space.
“We’re pretty much a one-stop shop,” said Anselmo.
Northern Ontario Film Studios has partnered with film equipment supplier William F. White International to rent out state-of-the-art gear to film and television productions.
The company also has a partnership with ScreenLinx Management Ltd., which provides vehicles and trailers for film shoots across Northern Ontario.
Anselmo said around 18 productions have passed through Northern Ontario Film Studios in four years, and that number should jump to 20 by the end of 2015.
The first movie to shoot at the studio was “Cas & Dylan” starring Richard Dreyfuss.
Other productions to go through Northern Ontario Film Studios’ doors include an action movie called “Ice Soldiers,” produced by Sony Pictures International, and “Be My Valentine,” a romantic film produced for the Hallmark Channel, starring William Baldwin.
Since 2012, Anselmo’s vision of a Hollywood North has slowly come to fruition.
Anselmo said the studio has helped create, and sustain, a new industry in the North.
The film productions that make their way through Northern Ontario Film Studios each year support around 200 full-time jobs, he said.
The jobs are not just limited to Sudbury, since some productions have shot on location around the North – in Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and New Liskeard, to name just a few communities.
The studio also directly supports local businesses, including a Sudbury-based props house called Mom and Props, and a craft service called Twisted Sister Catering.
Anselmo said he still hasn’t directed his own movie since returning home, but the industry he has helped establish in the North will allow young filmmakers to tell their own stories, instead of travelling abroad to tell someone else’s.