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City gives $100K to film studio renovating old CTV building

Within five years, Stardust Pictures Studios hopes to host eight productions a year in Sault Ste. Marie; co-owner most well-known for role on 1990s sitcom Full House

EDITOR'S NOTE: A version of this article originally appeared on SooToday on June 2. It is being republished here for readers who may have missed it.

Sault Ste. Marie city council authorized a $100,000 grant this week to Stardust Pictures Studios Inc., which is renovating the former CTV building at 119 East St. to provide studio space for the film industry.

Stardust's budget for the project has climbed to $2.9 million, almost three times the "round about a million-dollar spend" guesstimate it provided to SooToday when the building sold last August.

The company is co-owned by Justin L. Levine and David Lipper, both experienced film producers.

Levine has produced or has in current development something like 20 films, some in collaboration with Trish Rainone and Rebeka Herron of Sault-based 180 Sisterhood Productions.

As an actor, David Lipper played the role of Viper on the popular ABC sitcom Full House (1987-1995).

He ended up dating D.J. Tanner during the final season when D.J. broke up with boyfriend Steve.

Lipper reprised his Viper role in Fuller House, which ran from 2016 to 2020.

He's had a busy career since then in film and television, including numerous appearances in Levine's projects.

"Stardust is renovating the former CTV building to meet industry demand for studio space through the development of two new studios and office space to support productions," says Josh Rogers, the city's film, television and digital media co-ordinator.

The historic building was originally home to the Sault's Bell Telephone offices before CJIC-TV started operations there in November 1955.

"The renovation proposed by Stardust is substantial with an estimated cost of $2,933,000. Once complete, the studios and office space will be available for rent to productions filming in Sault Ste. Marie.

"The availability of studio space will support the growth of the local film industry by providing much-needed infrastructure capable of attracting productions to our community," Rogers says.

"This money will be used to develop the space as a modern studio space which will include editing houses and production office space. With studio space for filming, sound booths for audio recording, gear rentals, wardrobe and makeup rooms, a carpentry workshop, greenrooms, office space and a small cafe.

"The building will also be upgraded with a high bandwidth internet connection to support data management of the crews on site and support remote-access work done by postproduction and VFX teams," Rogers said in a report to city council.

"The development of Stardust Pictures Studios is an infrastructure project which will support the continued development of Sault Ste. Marie’s film industry by meeting an unmet need and will assist us to attract productions that would otherwise go to Sudbury or North Bay."

Stardust expects to host five productions during its first year of operation.

That's expected to grow to eight productions a year by Year 5.

The studio will create as many as six full-time jobs, with between 20 and 40 temporary local full-time positions per active film production in Sault Ste. Marie.

In a separate matter, city councillors approved the latest round of arts and culture assistance program grants: 

  • Metis Nation of Ontario – Powley Case 29th Anniversary Commemoration: $11,885
  • Friends of Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site – Fall Rendezvous and Harvest Festival: $6,229
  • Centre de Francophone – Festival du Jour de Franco-Ontariens Day Festival: $2,869
  • Andree-Ann Deschenes – commission project: $1,712
  • Rebeka Herron – Beka & Neko short film: $1,494
  • Dustin Goodall – Pointless: $1,642
  • Lucinda Hatt – Metis/Voyageur Art Creation Metis Heritage Centre SSM: $1,665
  • Nicole Dyble – 2023 Concert Series: $1,552
  • Sault Symphony Orchestra – Nutcracker Suite: $5,150
  • Sault Blues Society: $1,516
  • Sault Theatre Workshop: $4,654
  • Brandon Ruch – Album project: $1,362
  • Over The Rainbow: $2,552
  • Northern Ontario Latin Hispanic Association – Gala Latina: $2,787


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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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