Booming blockbuster business in Vancouver

Image via @VanMayorsOffice on twitter
Image via @VanMayorsOffice on twitter

The rise of the BC film and TV industry

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer

Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia are well-known for their part in the film and television industry. BC is the third largest production area for foreign production in the industry after New York City and Los Angeles, and the fourth largest for domestic (Ontario being third), earning the nickname “Hollywood North.” Almost everyone in Vancouver has been involved in or knows someone involved with the entertainment sector—whether working behind the scenes or on-camera.

The BC film industry has a long and successful history, with its first films being shot not long after the introduction of the medium itself in 1910. Its first film development office was opened in 1977, and it has maintained a steady pace since. Fifty-nine per cent of all foreign movie and TV production in Canada is done in BC. About 34,000 people are directly employed by “Hollywood North” between the motion picture and digital effects industry—and that’s not including the thousands who benefit indirectly through the business boom via media and tourism highlights as a result. BC enjoys a variety of domestic and foreign media production (indicating any show or film not made by a Canadian production company).

There are several reasons why Vancouver is so popular in the movie-making world. Perhaps the biggest one is the financial benefit. Many tax credits are offered by the province and different US states to develop movies and shows here, including a 17.5 per cent refundable credit on digital media producers, and refunds as high as 30 per cent in some US states. Another incentive is the US dollar value—while fluctuating in the last year it has maintained an average 1.25 multiple value in the Canadian market. Vancouver is also reasonably close to Hollywood via plane—about three hours—allowing quick travel commutes, and falls in the same time zone. Finally, Vancouver’s natural resources play a huge role in making for some ideal locations. BC offers mountains, forests, ocean, beaches, and a consistent cloudy weather which allows for easy manipulation in sets to create diversity in scenery and lighting.

Vancouver’s film industry is only set to grow bigger in the coming few years. From 2013–14, there was an increase of almost five per cent in the market, boosting BC Film to a foreign film industry of $1.8 billion. The movies being shot here are becoming even higher in budget and blockbuster. Recent high-profile films shot in BC include Fifty Shades of Grey, Godzilla, and The Interview. Futuristic films that have been shot or are being shot here include Warcraft, Deadpool, Star Trek 3, and Steven Spielberg’s The B.F.G.

The television industry in Vancouver is even more prestigious than the movies industry. Many extremely popular shows are shot in the area, including Supernatural, Once Upon a Time, Arrow, and The Flash. In the past, popular shows included Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, and The X-Files. The latter was one of the biggest shows of all time and provided a major lift in popularizing Vancouver as a desirable shooting location. Its gloomy atmosphere and abundance of forested area made it perfect for supernatural and crime elements. Fans and the industry collectively rejoiced when it was announced recently that the revival of The X-Files would be shot in Vancouver this summer. Another major show shot in Vancouver announced is the spinoff to The Walking Dead titled Fear the Walking Dead—already green lit for two seasons to shoot and air for this summer. In fact, between February to April this year—known in the industry as “pilot season”—nine new show pilots were shot in Vancouver, all of which will potentially become series to increase the industry.

The digital media sector of Vancouver works with blockbusters which are even more prominent than the ones directly shot here. Studios in the area create special effects, CGI, and motion capture for large blockbusters like Iron Man 3, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. This sector employs 15,000 locals directly and further reaps benefits for major studios in outsourcing and tax cuts. In fact, two BC locals were nominated at the Academy Awards this year for their excellent visual effects work in Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Projections show BC is likely to keep this level of work up in the industry for the next few years—hopefully leading to more blockbusters and Academy Award nominations centred in Vancouver. It’s good for the economy, for the industry, and for thousands of people employed by the industry.