North America’s third biggest film city hardly gets its name in movies
By Aaron Guillen, Contributor
Known to most film crews as Hollywood North, Vancouver has had its fair share of production crews from across the border arrive in herds to film their blockbuster hits. The city has portrayed India, Moscow, and Seattle in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and been the backdrop for multiple TV shows such as Arrow, The 100, Once Upon a Time, and The Flash. Vancouver makes up 60 per cent of all TV and media productions in Canada and injects almost $2 billion into the BC economy every year. With an abundance of mountains, urban areas, and forests, our city, undeniably one of the best places on Earth, provides versatility for any director. Despite this, Vancouver has rarely been given the chance to be the star of any major hit.
Perhaps the reason why is because our city is hopelessly ubiquitous. The sheer similarity of our architecture makes Seattle our easiest disguise. Without a notable signature that proclaims Vancouver as an individual, editors and set decorators can build upon what is missing. Placing American flags, USA Today stands, and new signs in front of buildings is the simplest way to trick the audience into thinking they are in another city.
Earlier this year, Fifty Shades of Grey was filmed in Vancouver but was alternately set in Vancouver, Washington—notably one of the most ironic film productions our side of the border has seen. Obviously, Vancouver is still waiting to receive the recognition it deserves in the film and TV industry.
This topic of concern was brought to light by Tony Zhou, the co-writer of the viral “Vancouver Never Plays Itself” YouTube video. As a self-proclaimed filmmaker and freelance editor in San Francisco, he shares his analysis of Vancouver’s potential. He finishes his video essay by saying: “I think it’s time we made a real push to create new images of ourselves. Because honestly, it’s our city. Who else is gonna do it?”
Now the obvious question comes into play: what can we do to make our city valued on the big screen?
Recently, I stumbled upon a website, “Re-Imagine Downtown Vancouver,” at ReimagineDowntown.com. The website encourages contributors to freely share their opinions of how they want Vancouver to look, taste, and feel 25 years from now. Clearly, in order for any change to happen, the voices of the people have to be heard.
To leave this discussion on a thought-provoking note, Bing Thom, a Canadian architect and urban designer, describes Vancouver as an adolescent that doesn’t realize it’s growing up nor what it wants to be when it gets there. But it’s growing up fast, according to Thom, and if we don’t decide how it grows up, other people will.