Grand Rapids movie studio finds room to grow outside of the city


WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids movie studio has taken its next big step, but it’s one that stepped outside of the city.

Black Pigeon Studios has completed its move from Market Avenue to an industrial building on 3 Mile Road in Walker. Black Pigeon co-founder Josh Sikkema said the new facility will create more opportunities for the studio and give his growing team some much-needed space.

“Our space in downtown Grand Rapids was amazing for what it was. It was more for proof of concept, that something like this could live in West Michigan,” Sikkema told News 8. “We had a lot of constraints at our own facility, so we felt like this was the next step to get a perfectly sound studio and facility for our interns and for our clients.”

Since opening in September 2021, Sikkema said the West Michigan community has embraced Black Pigeon and showed it that the demand is here.

“They just showed their support that this is needed. We have over 45 interns at Black Pigeon, which is incredible. It feels like we have a school,” Sikkema said.

That feeling is part of what drew the West Michigan native back home. As a budding filmmaker, Sikkema moved out to Los Angeles years ago, but he cut his teeth here in Michigan when opportunities were much harder to find.

“One of the best parts about movie making is it all comes full circle at some point,” he said. “Whether you shoot and edit and then you come back in post and then see it in the theater. That’s how I feel like my career has gone. I was so blessed to find the team that I did that understood the vision of all wanting to do that again, but for Michigan, for building a studio in Grand Rapids and how pivotal that was for the local community.”

He continued: “You learn a lot of things out here in Hollywood, and to be able to take those pieces and bring it back to the community is what we’re all about. Our mantra is ‘bridging the gap between Hollywood and West Michigan.’”

Sikkema and Black Pigeon’s other co-founders will remain based out of Los Angeles, but the vision and direction of the studio will remain focused on Grand Rapids, including that drive to help the next generation of filmmakers.

“We’re working with these interns, we’re working with the community and then we’re also working with other production companies,” Sikkema said. “All of that knowledge is culminating into what I would’ve wanted as a young filmmaker coming up.”

For now, Black Pigeon’s primary customers are local commercial opportunities, but they have tools to go further and plans to develop even more.

“We are a rentable space. So, the great thing is that you can come in, we can provide you with all of the tools needed for your production. But we’re proud to champion filmmaking in Michigan, and especially Grand Rapids and Walker,” Sikkema said.

One big step is complete, but Black Pigeon has more plans for the future: a move into virtual production.

“We’re getting a virtual wall, an XR wall, that will be within the space. We will be advancing (along) with Hollywood,” he said.

Black Pigeon also plans to bring its own work from L.A. out to West Michigan.

“As co-founders, we are also creators. So, we are looking to bring our films and not shoot them in L.A. but shoot them in Grand Rapids,” Sikkema said. “We’re just looking to push the needle. We really want to create the best studio we possibly can for this community, help it grow, and then also show that West Michigan is a beautiful place to shoot from.”

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