Executive Vice President Shawn Hodgkins, LA Councilmember Monica Rodriguez and CEO Tony Guanci break ground for the new state-of-the-art film and television production studio being built in Sylmar.

By July of next year there could be plenty of lights, cameras and Hollywood film and television action taking place in Sylmar.

That’s when a new independent, state-of-the-art studio — Sylmar Studios — is expected to be up and operating.

Investors and studio officials have acquired nearly 50 acres of land and property, and are spending an estimated $500 million to create 120,000 square feet of office space, including post-production and support facilities in three phases of construction.

Phase One had its official groundbreaking with CEO Tony Guanci, Executive Vice President Shawn Hodgkins and LA Councilmember Monica Rodriguez at San Fernando Road and Bledsoe Street on Monday, May 16, although some construction has already begun.

That part of the project — a 300,000-square-foot, 12-stage facility, known as Phase One being built from the ground up — is expected to open next year. It would be the first privately built studio of its size in Southern California in many years.

“One of the things that we saw right at the beginning of COVID was that the streaming platforms were just coming online and creating more and more content,” Guanci said. “Companies like Amazon and NBC Universal, Paramount. All of these things were happening and there was a shortage of production space.”

What made Sylmar attractive for such a project, Guanci said, is that the community falls within what is known as the “TMZ,” or Thirty Mile Zone, which can impact the costs for independent and mainstream production companies.

“What happens is, the production charges within the 30-mile zone are less than if you’re outside the zone. That’s why a lot of companies, especially production companies, are looking for facilities to make their [projects] within the 30-mile zone areas,” he said.

Hodgkins added having such studio capability here in the Valley would be a benefit for movie and television employees who are not necessarily actors or performers.

“While ‘other’ studios are sort of in the mid-Hollywood West Side area, the people who work on the production side live in the San Fernando Valley. And when ‘shoots’ start at five in the morning, it’s much easier for them to get to a place like this than it is to get to the West Hollywood side,” Hodgkins said.

“Back in the day, [studios like] Paramount, Disney and Universal could amass that kind of property because LA wasn’t as densely populated. It’s very difficult to find that [kind of space] today. We’re fortunate to find it here.”

Rodriguez, whose office served as a liaison between the various city departments and the studio’s development company, believes the new facility can be “transformational” in boosting the local economy here, “not only because it’s helping to keep these very valuable entertainment jobs here in the city of Los Angeles, but it’s building it out here in the Northeast Valley, which hasn’t historically had that footprint.”

“This is an opportunity to expose our residents in this area to the life-changing employment opportunities that come with studio production,” Rodriguez said.

It is also an opportunity, she said, to establish a “campus” for young people interested in working in the production industry to gain firsthand knowledge of the crafts.

“My goal in talking to Tony about this, is that we’re constantly working on creating greater apprenticeship opportunities so that we can expose more young people in particular to the job opportunities in this industry,” Rodriguez said.

“We just opened up studios [at the Discovery Cube in Lake View Terrace] because I want people to begin imagining themselves in these roles beginning at a very early age. I think this is part of a systematic approach to how we help young people envision themselves in these roles and then create the pathways for them to get there. Opening up these facilities is another means of getting there.”

The amount of local jobs and industry that can become available once the studio opens — at least Phase One of the project —  is not easy to immediately quantify. Hodgkins said their studio would be subletting space to the production companies, but many of the jobs “will be created” by these who come in and use the facilities.

“They will bring their own crews in, hundreds of people. We may have, you know, 25 to 50 people [initially] that are full-time employees at the studio,” he said

But those job numbers and opportunities at the Sylmar Studios themselves are expected to increase once the entire project is completed.

And it will be more than just jobs at the facility, Rodriguez said.

“There’s a lot of inherent businesses, support businesses — just a whole variety of support services that come with studio production being in an area,” the council member said. “I’m looking forward to all of the benefits that will help the local economy.”

The effort to build or refurbish production and soundstage studios in Southern California is escalating, in part because many existing studios are being booked year round to keep up with the demand for more movie and television content — especially in digital platforms.

In February 2021, the owners of CBS Television City in Los Angeles announced a $1.25 billion expansion and improvement of the historic production facility — growing the number of sound stages to a minimum of 15, up from eight, as well as adding new production office space and support facilities.

In October 2021, it was announced that Warner Bros.’ historic Ranch Lot in Burbank will be redeveloped to include 16 sound stages in what the new owners said will be the largest studio development in the US.

Warner Bros. sold the lot to Worthe Real Estate Group, which is developing the sound stages, along with a connected production support space, a multi-level parking structure, a commissary, mill space and a 320,000-square-foot office complex. Warner Bros. will lease back the property starting in 2025.

City News Service contributed to this report.