While many films have used Southern Arizona for its scenic outdoor locations, future productions will be able to take advantage of the region’s new indoor film location, Modern Studios. With 7,000 square feet of production studio space, the new Marana business contains more indoor film space than any other Tucson facility, placing Marana’s film initiative in a competitive spot alongside other locations throughout the state, and even the nation.
Modern Studios is a collaboration between Tucsonans Laura Levin, CEO, and Julie Davey, president of marketing. Levin is also the founder of Modern Reflections, a film digitizing company. While Modern Reflections turns physical celluloid into digital files, Levin says they often received requests to also make videos.
“I realized the one thing missing in our area is a good, controlled space indoors,” Levin said. “So I started by doing my homework, and saw what Phoenix and LA were doing with film production.”
Levin bought the Modern Studios building in June 2017, refurbishing the location and installing studio equipment. From the beginning, she placed a focus on technology.
“What’s important about having state-of-the-art technology is it takes a lot of the mistakes and problems out of the process,” Levin said. “A lot of the things we do with our technology, you simply can’t do with human hands.”
Throughout the 12,000 square foot facility are two cyclorama infinity screens (the curved, blank white backgrounds that give the illusion of infinity), 19-foot ceilings for large shots, a soundproofed room for audio recording, 600 square feet of portable LED screens and a “Bolt Cinemabot,” which is the fastest high speed camera robot in the world, capable of driving and slow motion footage.
“We have a whole list of things we want to do with our slo-mo cameras,” Davey said.
Modern Studios describes themselves as a “full-service creative agency,” meaning they can shoot film, edit video, mix sound, color correct, green screen or virtually any other film production task. The only limit they see to their abilities would be the sheer size of projects, which is why they are fashioning themselves to small- or medium-sized productions.
“With the opening of Modern Studios, Southern Arizona now has a production facility that meets Hollywood’s professional standards and is ready to regain its position as a significant production destination for the industry,” said Matthew Earl Jones, Director of the Arizona Office of Film and Digital Media.
According to Levin, Modern Studios is beating any location in Phoenix when it comes to the size of their indoor film studio and sound room.
“It wasn’t something I was initially going for, but it sure was nice to hear,” Levin said. “Now, we can handle all-of-the-above, which is a huge thing for our area to have.”
The Marana Film Office started in 2017 to provide information and location scouting to film producers, and of course to market Marana as a filming location. This local film initiative formed in response to Arizona’s Office of Film and Digital Media, launched in an effort to bring filming back to Arizona. Levin and Davey say Modern Studios is the next step in bringing that Marana film initiative to fruition.
“A lot of local talent is interested in having this as their home base, instead of having to fly out to LA for production,” Levin said. “Content is king right now, and therefore so is having a place that can create it and produce it.”
While Marana is receiving a fair bit of attention of-late, town manager Jamsheed Mehta said the region has played a major role in the film industry for years due to its ideal locales and open spaces.
“We’re trying to capture as much attention as we can,” Mehta said. “In terms of what the film industry does for the community—it puts us on the map.”
Modern Studios has not completed any major local projects for customers yet, but have received interest from multiple parties. They are also looking into partnerships and internships with the film departments at the University of Arizona and Pima Community College.
When Modern Studios hosted their Grand Opening Jan. 16, some 200 people arrived, including members of the Arizona Office of Film and Digital Media, Marana Film Office, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and more.