About three years ago, Lauren Felhlhaber pitched the idea of a film coworking space in Vista to her father Jim Ellis and his business partner at Inspired Images Studios. But this wouldn't be the usual coworking space - it would include a video and audio production facility under the same roof.
“We have been in the video production industry for over 30 years and have produced everything from industrial videos to full length feature films. As producers, we knew this idea would save anyone producing audio or video projects a great deal of money,” said Ellis, President & Executive Director of Vista-based Inspired Images Studios. “And because of our background, we were able to design everything a producer would ever want.”
Fast forward to today and Ellis, Felhlhaber and their crew are gearing up to officially unveil The Film Hub, the first-of-its-kind coworking space specifically geared toward the film and TV industry. The Hub will contain a sound stage, six foley pits, podcast/audio recording room and a control room/editing suite.
The 12,500 square-foot facility, which is scheduled to open its new downtown Vista digs June 1, 2019, is expected to not only be a boon for the local film and TV industry but also for the community and surrounding businesses.
We recently talked with some of The Film Hub’s key players and their passion to spread the magic of media and movie making to the masses while turning Vista into a vibrant creative center.
Content Creator’s Paradise
“In The Film Hub, you can produce all of your audio and video needs in your own office building. Lauren has been working as a video production manager and set designer for the last 10 years. Incorporating her knowledge, we designed every corner of the building to be a ‘shooting location.’ The result is a content creator’s paradise. With a network of video and marketing professionals under one roof, assistance is just steps away,” Elllis said, adding that businesses don’t need to be involved in the film industry to benefit from a space like this. “The Film Hub was developed to be a game changer for the industry by keeping production costs low and bringing more activity to the area.”
Location, Location, Location: “We knew the city of Vista was the perfect place because it has always had a vibrant art community with an eclectic vibe,” Ellis said. “Those who have gone before us have contributed to this art-rich community by establishing venues like the Moonlight Theater and the Avo Playhouse. To have a large enough building within walking distance to over 30 restaurants would be an ideal location for a coworking space like this. That door opened to us, and the old Vista Post Office was purchased in September of 2017, and renovations began in June of 2018.
Picture Perfect: “There has been a vibrant entertainment industry in San Diego county for over 30 years,” said Ellis, who has more than 30 years experience in producing award-winning products from TV commercials to feature films. “The city is working alongside us to help make Vista a film-friendly town. Through the years, Vista has maintained its historic appeal and now with all of the revitalization work that is being done downtown, it is enhancing that charm. With the surrounding hillsides, Vista really is a snapshot of an old California postcard - very picturesque”
Business Model: Membership for The Film Hub is based on as little as a month-to-month commitment. This short term membership, Ellis said, is very appealing to start ups. Besides having access to a 12,500 square-foot inspiring, artistic, and fun workplace, the space will include - at no extra charge - high speed dedicated fiber internet service, electricity, fully furnished offices, adjustable lighting, quiet air and heat in all private offices, kitchen with coffee, tea and water, conference rooms, video production offices with storage, and a receptionist to greet clients, as well as monthly networking events and mixers.
The production facilities such as the soundstages, set kitchen, foley pits, audio/podcast recording rooms, hair and makeup, control and editing room, and event spaces are all available to the general public, but the Film Hub members can use these same amenities at a much discounted rate and at times, free of charge, because of accrued credits each month.
Star City: Before the old Vista Post Office building was purchased, Ellis and his team met with city officials and pitched the idea of a facility such as The Film Hub in the downtown area and the new industry it would support. “They immediately put us in touch with those who could help propel the concept along. We have been working alongside the city ever since and they continue to seek out ways to help us meet our goals. In my opinion, Vista is a model city, genuinely committed not only to attracting investors and entrepreneurs but in doing all they can to help them launch successful ventures. Because of this positive environment, in June 2019, the doors will open again at 170 Eucalyptus Ave., but this time to a prestigious coworking place complete with all the amenities any entrepreneur would ever need,” said Ellis, adding that The Film Hub is also working with the North County EDC and the City of Vista to promote media production in the area.
Deep Impact: Just like any industry, the film industry brings in a wealth of benefits to a region, Ellis said. “Budgets for national commercials and films can be substantial. A portion of that budget is spent directly in the local industries - hotels, car rentals. and restaurants benefit and eventually the tourism industry benefits also. Look at how many locals still tell their visiting family and friends about the house in Oceanside that was used in the movie Top Gun. Just how influential is the film industry? Go to Salzburg, Austria, the birthplace of one of the most successful composers to ever live - Mozart. You won’t see his name as much as you will see a vibrant tour industry taking tourists to see where scenes of the movie Sound of Music were filmed over 50 years ago.”
Vista Films International: Vista Films International, the parent company for The Film Hub, is one of the companies that will call the new coworking space home. The local film company, which is dedicated to inspirational films, has a number of films planned for the coming years. Other film companies who are in line to open offices at The Film Hub include Princeberry Productions & Media LLC, which focuses on advisory services, film production, finance, and acquisition of previously completed projects. Also on the list is Elias Acosta, an internationally known cinematographer from the Dominican Republic.
In Focus: “It was once said that you could not make a feature film in San Diego any more because of the lack of equipment, talent, and facilities. That was only 10 years ago,” Ellis said.” I know that was the attitude because it was said to me. We went ahead and made a feature film anyway. It starred Michael Madsen and was released through E1 Entertainment. Others have done the same. There are many seasoned professionals in the film industry in San Diego. I think places like The Film Hub can help put the focus back on San Diego as a viable production-rich area.”
Backdrop: Acosta - who has more than 35 years of TV and film cinematography experience - has worked as a director and a director of photography for hundreds of motion pictures, national commercials like Coca Cola, Heineken Beer, MacDonald’s, and music videos all over the world. At an international film festival in Rome, he recently received a lifetime achievement award for his work in the film industry. Acosta’s role at The Film Hub will be to promote and bring clients to the Hub and shoot their projects here.
Storyline: “I moved to North County in 2007. But I was working in LA and Latin America. There was no sound stage or VFX studio here, therefore all of it had to be done in LA, Orange County, or downtown San Diego Inspired Images Studios was already in blueprints when I met Jim Ellis in 2010 and we knew that it was meant to be,” Acosta said. “Jim had the vision to build the studio since he ran into the same limitations. Refuge From The Storm, our first feature film in North County, was a good opportunity to test the new facility.”
Landscapes: Because I work mostly with international clients, they always ask me about shooting their projects in California, but they are afraid of the costs,” Acosta said. “But that's not accurate. I have found that in some Latin American countries, for example, the prices can be even higher than Southern California, and even higher if you are outside of the big cities. We have great locations all around North County, as well as big cities nearby. The ocean, mountains, deserts, and farms - that's the beauty of this region.”
Vista Vision: For Acosta, Vista is the perfect locale for The Film Hub. “This is another great vision of Jim’s and his daughter Lauren, who designed the Hub. There are a lot of good, professional people around North County. But there is not a common place available where people with the same interest can go and even co-work on projects. Having the Hub will bring together a lot of talents under one roof.”
Mass Appeal: Acosta said The Film Hub will also attract businesses that serve the film industry, as well as radio, television, and advertising companies, creative shops, graphic designers, casting companies, and post-production companies. “Everybody is welcome.”
Economic Impact: “As a result of bringing in film projects to Vista, there will be an impact in new jobs, training, and opportunities for graduates from our local colleges and universities,” Acosta said. “At the same time, we will see an increase of local restaurants and shops being busier since there will be more demands due to a working force right downtown. It's all about economic growth and development on all fronts.”
Creative California: “For many people and clients in foreign countries, California represents a certain status: quality, cutting-edge technology, and trendy. As Californians, we have to tap into that reputation and create the conditions for our talented people to grow even more, and at the same time, let the world know that we’d love for them to bring their projects here. We can do this, we will do this, and it will be an exciting venture. The best asset we have is people, their talent and their desire to grow.”
Training Ground: “The North County Hispanic Chamber/In Biz Latino will do our very best to make sure that The Film Hub is well known, all the way to Mexico to the south, extending north to Los Angeles, and covering Orange County with our different partnerships,” Alexander said. “We want to make the Hub an education center, inviting the different age groups like university, college and high school students in the area.”
Vision: “I would like to bring more production companies to the San Diego region; we have unique locations. Possibly, by advertising internationally via the Hub, we can increase our economy and build more job openings. This is an exciting venture and I see a lot of benefits for the Vista community. “
Gathering Place: “I believe in general that business owners are looking for new options for the growth of their businesses. The Film Hub is one of the new buildings located in the heart of downtown, where I perceive the enormous potential for a gathering place for entrepreneurs and the general public.”
Benefits: “Since this is the first time Vista will experience this type of space, local residents and businesses will quickly see the benefits of The Film Hub. Local businesses will be able to promote their location and have the option to participate in the numerous events that The Film Hub will host.”
Another benefit of The Film Hub will be the overall economic impact and contribution not only to Vista but the entire region, said Vista Mayor Judy Ritter. “We have already seen the positive impacts of the creative economy here in Vista,” she said. “The Film Hub will further boost that culture and put Vista on the map as a thriving center for film, TV, and other media productions.”
The new creative coworking space will also give downtown Vista businesses a boost.
“The Film Hub is a fully accessible high tech office where residents can work individually or in teams,” said Kevin Ham, Vista’s Economic Development Director. “This will reduce vehicle trips and increase downtown foot traffic to support surrounding businesses.”