New high-tech film studio in Portland hopes to spur ‘Hollywood East’

Rory Strunk oversees the building of a cyc stage at Global Studios and Maine Media Hub. The state's first digital media studio opens in late-October on Danforth Street in Portland.
Kathleen Pierce | BDN Staff
Rory Strunk oversees the building of a cyc stage at Global Studios and Maine Media Hub. The state's first digital media studio opens in late-October on Danforth Street in Portland. Buy Photo
Posted Sept. 27, 2013, at 1:40 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 27, 2013, at 2 p.m.
Digital media studio Global Studios and Maine Media Hub opens in October on Danforth Street in Portland. The facility gives film, TV and social media producers access to Hollywood-style equipment. It will have the largest cyc wall north of Boston.
Kathleen Pierce | BDN Staff
Digital media studio Global Studios and Maine Media Hub opens in October on Danforth Street in Portland. The facility gives film, TV and social media producers access to Hollywood-style equipment. It will have the largest cyc wall north of Boston. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — “Lights, camera, almost action. Key the Grand Canyon,” Rory Strunk directed in a warehouse on Danforth Street.

This week, crews are installing the curved, seamless backdrop used for TV and films to make way for a new digital media production studio opening in late October.

“We have huge creative talent both in writing, acting, [and] producing, but we lack in some of the basic resources, such as studio facilities,” said Strunk.

To remedy that, he is building Global Studios and Maine Media Hub in a 5,400-square-foot space just steps from the Old Port.

In a new media climate where a Netflix series like “House of Cards” recently won an Emmy, an independent studio geared toward online content and traditional programming comes right on time.

When it opens, Global Studios will have the largest cyc, or wraparound, stage north of Boston. The 30-by-18-foot surface curves 20 feet out so “you could drive a car or a truck right here,” said Strunk.

For commercial photographers, the backdrop can frame a shot with any location of their choice. A high-end social media campaign can be launched here, for example.

“Media is all about content creation, because content is now more than a television show,” said Strunk.

And he would know.

As owner of Portland’s Global Content Partners, he creates and develops content for brands and networks. Strunk is the co-creator of the “World of Adventure Sports” on NBC, and just landed two new social media accounts for Stonyfield Farm Inc. and Blake’s All Natural Foods.

Though Strunk is moving his business here from a block away, the facility will be available for rent by the day for people to “collaborate and create things,” said Strunk, who describes it as a co-working space for producers.

The media hub will have two studios — one for filming and a second for photography with a sound room.

Next spring there will be an outdoor garden and patio for cooking and gardening shows. Maine’s burgeoning reality show circuit could use the facility. Ditto films, video game makers and anyone who “wants images produced in a certain way,” he said.

“If I could have five producers producing some killer web series out of here or a TV show, that would be a homerun hit,” said Strunk.

The concept is loosely based on the YouTube studios that Google has opened in metro hubs like Los Angeles, where independent content is produced for online audiences.

“It’s a very small version of that,” said Strunk. “This is what we in Portland unfortunately don’t have access to, so we have to create it on our own.”

Such flexibility appeals to local companies such as The VIA Agency.

To film TV commercials for clients such as Perdue and Welch’s, the advertising and marketing agency often travels to Boston, Montreal or even Budapest.

When Global Studios opens, “we can do fantastic work without having to incur the brutal travel costs,” said John Coleman, VIA’s chief executive officer. “It’s a good addition to the business community.”

The cyc stage is the main draw.

“There really hasn’t been anything like this in Portland,” said Coleman.

Located in Gorham’s Corner near the Casco Bay Technology Hub and co-working space Engine Room, Global Studios is expected to extend the neighborhood’s innovative and creative vibe.

“They all feed off each other, the disciplines overlap, advertising, media,” said Vin Veroneau, president of J.B. Brown & Sons, the real estate developer that owns the space that Strunk is renting.

“It’s a continuation of what’s happening in that corner. Tech companies that are bringing a bunch of like-minded businesses and entrepreneurs together,” said Verano.

Though film incentives in Maine are not as robust as other states, Stunk was not dissuaded from creating what could spur a “Hollywood East.”

“We are a resourceful, independent state, so do you just sit around and wait for someone to invent an incentive to get going? No. We can get at least something very functional and keep that creative energy together and do the independent thing,” said Strunk.

“I think we have the talent base here, if the client base follows the talent base we could have a really dynamic marketplace.”

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