A publicity photo for “Altered Carbon,” a Netflix series filmed at Surrey Studio City for two seasons, from 2016 to 2020. (Photo: imdb.com)

A publicity photo for “Altered Carbon,” a Netflix series filmed at Surrey Studio City for two seasons, from 2016 to 2020. (Photo: imdb.com)

HISTORY

SURREY NOW & THEN: ‘Pachinko’ filming now the focus of former newspaper press building

A weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites and events

Into a big Surrey building that once printed newspapers, film crews have brought lights, cameras and action not meant for the general public to see, or even know about.

A veil of secrecy tends to surround Surrey Studio City, the new name of the former Pacific Press plant located on 88th Avenue in Kennedy Heights, east of Scott Road.

These days, the place buzzes with filming of Pachinko, described as “a chronicle of four generations of a Korean immigrant family” on imdb.com, in an Apple TV+ series based on the 2017 novel by Korean-American author Min Jin Lee.

The series has caused the parking lot of Surrey’s largest film studio to be full of trucks, trailers and tents, and in one area a backlot is being built for outdoor scenes, much like the one created at Cloverdale Fairgrounds for Superman and Lois shoots.

“It’s quite significant in size, and it’s good for Surrey,” James Monk, the city’s filming manager, said of the 200,000-square-foot studio.

“Productions can film there and also use the space for set construction, and they can set up their production offices there too,” Monk added. “So it’s almost a one-stop-shop for film productions, whereas some productions can’t house everything under one roof like that, they have to spread out a bit more, in other parts of town. That building seems to accommodate what productions are looking for.”

(Story continues below video of “Altered Carbon’s Cyberpunk City”)

homelessphoto

PICTURED: Surrey Studio City on a recent Wednesday afternoon, at 12091 88th Ave. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

In 2016, more than a year after the printing of Vancouver’s largest daily newspapers had stopped, Skydance Media moved in to start shooting a new Altered Carbon TV series for Netflix. During a media event that fall, giant ceremonial scissors were used to cut a grand-opening ribbon, as Hollywood types, local film-industry folks and politicians gathered to celebrate the arrival of a big-time film company in Surrey.

“We look forward to a very long history here,” Skydance CEO David Ellison promised the crowd.

But after just two seasons of sci-fi drama, Altered Carbon was scrapped and the Skydance logo scraped from the concrete wall at the studio entrance, where a guard tower stands and security shoos away anyone hoping to take a photo of the place.

• RELATED STORY, from 2016: Hollywood arrives in Surrey with sci-fi action in former Kennedy Heights printing press building.

homelessphoto

PICTURED: Inside the former newspaper printing facility in Surrey, at Kennedy Heights. (File photo/ brianhowellphotography.com)

Fortunately, the Now-Leader located and talked to the president of building owners Pacific Press Properties Inc., Baljinder (Bal) Sandhu, who graciously shed light on recent history.

His company bought the property and empty building in 2015, after Post Media vacated.

“At the time, we didn’t yet have a clear vision of what was the best use of the building,” Sandhu recalled. “We tried all sorts of things, like warehousing. There was a lot of interest in the property – a Playland type of thing (was considered), ice rinks, all sorts of stuff, electric car manufacturing.”

When Sandhu and others learned that some filming was done in the building during its newspaper-press days, one thing led to another, and a lease with Skydance was signed.

“We started off with just an empty warehouse in 2015, and we now have top-quality filming studios there,” said Sandhu, proudly. “There’s quite a lot of construction inside, and if you see the outside now, they’ve put up a lot of façades supported by scaffolding, so it’s going to look like a big city there, outside.”

Inside, “rain” can fall for filmmaking, Sandhu added. “We have a water collection system for that.”

Some interior and exterior photos of the studio are posted to lionestateconstruction.com, a website for the construction and management arm of the company.

Back in 1997, the purpose-built newspaper factory opened as the most technologically advanced printing press in the world. It shut down just 18 years later, due to shifts in the publishing industry. During its run, a staggering amount of materials were used, including close to 750,000 rolls of newsprint (each 13 kilometres in length), 5,000,000 kilograms of black ink, 3,000,000 kilograms of colour ink, and hundreds of thousands of press plates.

• READ MORE in story from 2015: Closure of printing press marks end of era in Surrey.

homelessphoto

PICTURED: Skydance Studios opened in 2016 inside Pacific News Group’s old printing press on 88th Avenue in Surrey. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

“The printing press was built for a cost of around $50 million,” Sandhu said, “and then they put in equipment worth around $110 million, so the total cost was about $160 million. It’s a very good size property, 13.81 acres. There aren’t too many parcels of land in the city that large. When they’re filming, that whole place is absolutely packed. In fact, they don’t have enough space.”

A professional engineer, Sandhu said he was attracted to the building due to his previous work building pulp and paper mills.

“I had just about retired from that at the time, and a friend mentioned this building for sale, one with a printing press inside,” he remembered. “A printing press is almost like a baby paper machine, and that’s something I’ve done all my life. I said, ‘Wow, and the quality of construction is very high.’”

(Story continues below photos)

homelessphoto

PICTURED: Studio execs and politicians pose for a photo during the opening of Skydance film studio in Surrey in September 2016. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

homelessphoto

PICTURED: In 2016, “Altered Carbon” producer John Lenic at Skydance Studios when the studio was built to house five sound stages, including one hailed as one of the world’s longest and tallest such stages, at 460 feet long and 50 feet high. “We’re building a city street from San Francisco 500 years into the future,” Lenic said at the time. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

Asked about potential plans for an ice arena there post-2015, Sandhu elaborated.

“The arena, we ourselves looked at putting that in,” he said. “We had some sketches done for a full-size, NHL-size rink plus a couple of training rinks there. There’s a lot of open space in there, and it’s quite a high-quality-construction building.”

But it never happened.

“It’s a studio now,” Sandhu said.

As for Pachinko, a story posted on deadline.com sheds light on the “epic international drama series,” written and executive-produced Soo Hugh and starring Min Ho Lee, among others.

“Epic in scope, intimate in tone,” the series bio says, “the story begins with a forbidden love and crescendos into a sweeping saga that journeys between Korea, Japan and America to tell the unforgettable story of war and peace, love and loss, triumph and reckoning. The series will be told in three languages: Korean, Japanese and English.”

CLICK HERE to read more Surrey Now & Then stories.

Surrey Now & Then is a weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites and events, and how they evolved over the years. Email story ideas and tips to tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com. We thank Surrey Archives for assistance with this series.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Film industryHeritagehistoryMovies & TVMovies and TV

Just Posted

A proposed 29-storey highrise development in North Delta’s Townline neighbourhood is headed to a public hearing on June 8, 2021. (Penmat Mana JV (Delta) Ltd./City of Delta report image)
North Delta highrise proposal headed to public hearing

Council voted 4-3 Monday (May 10) to move the 29-storey project forward

Bucketheads – A Star Wars Story is being filmed near the 19000-block of 16 Avenue in South Surrey. (Mychaylo Prystupa photos)
Star Wars fan film ‘Bucketheads,’ shot in South Surrey, makes its debut

Volunteer initiative features new LED screen technology

Surrey RCMP detachment. (Contributed file photo)
RCMP investigating report of shots fired in South Surrey

Police say they have not yet found evidence to confirm incident

Darlene Bennett, right, speaking about her murdered husband Paul at a press conference in 2018. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Widow of Surrey murder victim seeking referendum vote on policing transition

Darlene Bennett files application with Elections BC seeking binding referendum vote

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

The Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Program welcomed a new chick in April 2021 after it was artificially incubated for 32 days while still in its egg, hand raised for a week and then returned to owl foster parents Sedin and Amore. Chick B is now settling in at the family nest, which the public can view live online. (Jasmine McCulligh/Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Baby owl welcomed at Langley’s Northern Spotted Owl breeding site

Facility has launched an Adopt-a-Chick fundraiser to help with expenses

Heavily armed police officers responded to a call on 203rd Street near Fraser Highway. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Update: Police swarm Langley dollar store after man with a gun reported

Weapon turned out to be an Airsoft pistol, RCMP said

Most Read