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Langley film studio ditches diesel for green power

Back lot in Aldergrove has starred as big cities, quaint towns

Langley’s biggest film studio was honoured this week for cutting diesel fuel out of the movie and TV production process at all its local facilities.

Most production sites, whether on location or pre-built back lots, use diesel generators for the large amount of energy needed for the lights, cameras, and other gear that goes into filming.

The generators have advantages – power and flexibility – but they are part of why the average big budget film produces 2,840 tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to BC Hydro.

Martini Studios has scrapped the use of diesel generators at its Martini Town back lot set in Aldergrove, however, replacing them with kiosks powered by BC Hydro electricity. CleanBC and BC Hydro’s Low Carbon Electrification Program provided $280,000 towards the upgrades.

Energy Minister Josie Osbourne and representatives of BC Hydro came to Martini Town on Wednesday, Sept. 6 to give studio CEO Gemma Martini a Clean Energy Champion award for the switch.

Martini said the studio, which also has large production facilities in Walnut Grove, and is planning a major expansion in the Willoughby area, is aiming to go net zero when it comes to carbon emissions.

“Your actions serve as a model for the motion picture industry,” Osbourne said.

The award gave Martini an opportunity to show Osbourne, Langley East MLA Megan Dykeman, and BC Hydro vice president Diana Stephenson around the back lot, which has expanded significantly during the last few years.

Built on approximately six acres of a 17-acre site, the back lot includes streets, working streetlights and functional storm sewers, and facades for various types of cities, including a stretch of a quaint small town, and some more urban New York-style streets.

From a few feet away, the buildings appear very real, although they all end about two storeys up – utility poles project above them, and behind several of the facades are concrete block supports. Up close, it’s evident that the exteriors are wood and painted foam instead of stone or cement.

Martini said there have been about 30 productions there so far, including parts of a season of the Apple+ show Schmigadoon!

A few days before Martini received the energy award, part of the back lot was covered in fake snow for the filming of a Christmas TV movie romance.

A diner set that was used in a long-running locally filmed drama has also been added to her site.

There is room to grow and continue adding more back lot sets, depending on what productions need, Martini said.

However, she acknowledged that this is a difficult time for the industry. Two major Hollywood unions are currently on strike, the writers of the WGA and the actors of SAG-AFTRA are both striking against studios over issues of pay and streaming residuals.

Some independent productions, and companies that have reached separate deals with the unions, are still going on, but as most B.C. productions come from American studios, it’s caused a major impact.

“The strikes have been extremely challenging,” Martini said.

“We’re down to about 10 per cent of production.”

Martini Studios announced a proposed 600,000-square-foot studio in Willoughby, near 216th Street and Highway One, in 2019.

The company is planning to expand EV charging units, and its existing studio also boasts solar panels and energy-efficient lighting, heating, and cooling systems.

READ ALSO: Planned Langley movie studio could use solar panels, Township council decides

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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