Q&A Movie mogul Frank Si­coli on his plans to bring a $100-mil­lion mega-stu­dio to Markham

Movie pro­ducer Frank Si­coli wants Markham to be the new centre of Hol­ly­wood North—and he’s al­ready raised $100 mil­lion to make it hap­pen

Toronto Life - - Contents - by mark pupo This in­ter­view has been edited for length and clar­ity.

You’re in charge of First Stu­dio City, a new film pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in Markham. How does some­one get into the busi­ness of build­ing mega-stu­dios? I’m from Hamil­ton, but I’ve been rais­ing fi­nanc­ing for fea­ture films and TV shows in the U.S. for 15 years. My busi­ness part­ner, Dominic Sci­ullo, and I saw the lack of stu­dio space in the GTA and re­al­ized a new fa­cil­ity could be very prof­itable. When court­ing in­vestors, I didn’t have to sell any­body on the idea.

Is there de­mand for more stu­dio space? Many of my col­leagues in Los An­ge­les want to shoot in Toronto, but the stu­dios are booked solid. We are con­fi­dent that we will be at 90 per cent ca­pac­ity from day one.

Why Markham and not downtown Toronto? I’m go­ing to give you a curt an­swer. The prob­lem with the Toronto Port­lands, where the ex­ist­ing stu­dios are lo­cated, is that you can’t ex­pand. Markham has a lot of land, which we wouldn’t be able to ac­quire any­where else in the GTA. Also, we’re right off the 407—it’s just 20 min­utes from the air­port to our stu­dio. This is project num­ber one in Markham’s downtown de­vel­op­ment plan. We’re their crown jewel.

You’ve al­ready raised $100 mil­lion in pri­vate funds. Who are your in­vestors? I’ll tell you this, just to put it to bed. They are pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als in­volved in this project who pre­fer to stay anony­mous be­cause they don’t want 10,000 peo­ple knock­ing on their door ask­ing for money. All I can say is that it’s a pri­vate eq­uity group out of the U.S., and they’re re­ally ex­cited about what we’re do­ing.

Why does it cost so much to build a stu­dio? Aren’t they just walls and a roof? This will be a real Hol­ly­wood stu­dio—the first of its kind out­side of Los An­ge­les— with the largest sound­stage in North Amer­ica. We’ll han­dle pre-pro­duc­tion right through to post-pro­duc­tion. It’s a pro­ducer’s dream. We’re also part­ner­ing with Seneca Col­lege on a film and TV pro­gram to train the next gen­er­a­tion. Our in­dus­try needs more A-teams.

Do you think the tal­ent pool in the GTA is in­ad­e­quate? If you were talk­ing to Zack and Jamie [the heads of Ap­ple’s new pro­duc­tion di­vi­sion], the first thing they’d tell you is that they’d love to shoot in Toronto, but they’d need a pro­duc­tion team. There are only three or four of what they call A-pro­duc­tion teams here.

You’re plan­ning to open in 2020. Have you al­ready signed up pro­duc­tions? We al­ready have a ma­jor stu­dio film fran­chise that will be shot in Markham, though I can’t say which one. I was a pro­ducer in Canada, and I moved my pro­duc­tion com­pany to L.A. in 2003. My wife, Mon­ica Veiga, is se­nior vi­cepres­i­dent of dis­tri­bu­tion at Sony, and most of our friends are se­nior ex­ec­u­tives in the stu­dio system. We have re­la­tion­ships with Sony, Lion­s­gate, Ap­ple and Net­flix.

Doug Ford seems to like can­celling stuff. Are you wor­ried he might scrap movie pro­duc­tion tax cred­its and scare away your busi­ness? Ford is very sup­port­ive of what we’re do­ing. Keep in mind that most pro­duc­tions are booked years in ad­vance. This stu­dio is as sound an in­vest­ment as you could pos­si­bly make. The sup­port of the govern­ment is un­wa­ver­ing. We have no con­cerns that any­thing’s go­ing to change.

You’ve worked as a con­sul­tant on Avengers: Age of Ul­tron and Trans­form­ers: Age of Ex­tinc­tion. Are those the kinds of movies we’ll see at this stu­dio? I live in Mi­ami, and so does Michael Bay, who di­rected the Trans­form­ers se­ries. Inevitably, when a col­league of mine is work­ing on one of his films and needs an ex­tra set of eyes, I get the call. I can tell you, as a Cana­dian boy liv­ing in the U.S., sit­ting on a big Hol­ly­wood lot, I’m still in awe of what I get to do. I was also on the set of Rock of Ages. Hang­ing out with Tom Cruise and all the other stars, you ap­pre­ci­ate how many peo­ple are in­volved in a pro­duc­tion. I watch Michael Bay work and re­al­ize I have a lot more to learn.

There’s a photo of you on IMDb with Bill Clin­ton. He’s not your main in­vestor, is he? No, it’s not Bill Clin­ton. He was in Toronto do­ing a talk. Guys, I’m not go­ing to tell you who our in­vestor is.

Okay, okay. Top five de­ser­tis­land movies? Glen­garry Glen Ross, The God­fa­ther, The God­fa­ther II, The Pope of Green­wich Vil­lage—and any­thing by Quentin Tarantino.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.