Commons Studio partnership gives young students a taste of the Canadian film industry
By Jon Rohr
When the Working Centre’s outreach media division, Commons Studio, moved to street level, a whole new dynamic was created. “What changed,” says Martin DeGroot, long time, half time associate at the studio, “is that we now have the storefront and more people walk in.”

The Commons Studio was founded nine years ago by a new Canadian who came to the region with film-making skills. The Working Centre, a Kitchener not for profit operated by Joe and Stephanie Mancini, helped him find a space, with a little desk in a corner down at 58 Queen St. S. Kitchener.

“When the founder stopped working there,” says Nathan Stretch (right with daughter), Co-ordinator at the Commons Studio, who also operates the housing initiative for the Working Centre, “we knew we would have to keep it going. It’s a social benefit”.

The studio is a cooperative collaborative that provides state of the art studio space, including editing suites, film equipment and, more recently, lighting rental equipment “as previously found in much larger cities,” Stretch adds. The equipment is owned by a Toronto company, Lighthouse Equipment Inc. and is “equal to that used by large motion pictures,” adds Tony Smith (below), one of three partners of the company. Smith and his partners work professionally on film sets in Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe.

The two organizations have entered into an agreement, where Commons Studio, working as a hub for the local film community, provides access to professional equipment, studio space and expertise to local film enthusiasts, both professional and amateur. Working with Lighthouse, which supplies the lighting, has resulted in larger film projects linked to the Commons Studio. They can now fill almost any film need in the region, says Stretch. “The high quality equipment is getting known to the GTA and Hamilton area as well, having recently provided equipment for a Google Toronto corporate project,” added Smith.

Smith and his partners came to conclusion that “this is warranted here, in the city. [Kitchener] has just grown, so much in the last few years, it’s just going to keep on growing, and

media content in general is just expanding. You see so many more businesses these days needing some online content, hiring out their own in-house teams, not contracting out more of our local companies. By doing that,” says Smith, “we don’t have to compete with the same pricing structure that rental houses in Toronto are dealing with, [where] high overhead adds to their cost.”

With the Commons Studio and Lighthouse Equipment partnership, “we are also able to cater to Toronto, Milton, Hamilton, and some of the other projects and shows.” This creates some really interesting opportunities for the city, and the Commons Studio community. “There is no doubt, having access to the right tools, will help drive awareness of the local film industry in Waterloo Region,” adds DeGroot (above photo). “Local workers are already regularly employed for film functions to sort and deliver equipment for film sets. Co-op students and volunteers are given unique opportunities to work on small and large film projects, resulting in employment in the film industry.”

“This is a community venture, and in equal measure, a business venture,” adds Stretch. “We’re sharing our skills, but part of it is, the part that we have been really successful at, is the co-op side and the employment side,” continues Smith. With their focus, they’re able to bring in co-op students from local high schools, “we’re able to bring them out onto larger shoots. They wouldn’t necessarily have access to these positions, through other channels.”

Currently the studio and rental facility have a two-tier pricing model, corporate and not for profit. The group continues to accumulate gear and grow contacts. “That’s what kind of made this partnership really interesting,” says Smith. When you have the gear and contacts, getting people employed/working “is the next logical step”. And isn’t that what the Working Centre is all about?

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ISSN 0824-45
Copyright, 2018.