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Hollywood North: Vancouver Film Industry

Downtown Vancouver

You’ve probably heard Vancouver referred to as Hollywood North. In 2012 alone, the film industry contributed close to a billion dollars to the economy – with a good balance of international and domestic productions. Every year, hundreds of films, TV shows, and documentaries are shot here.

Today, the city is ranked as the third largest production center for film and TV in North America. So yes, Vancouver’s earned its reputation, but why exactly is the film scene so happening here?

Facilities

Vancouver is home to most of B.C.’s production and post-production activities, and has the capacity to support the biggest Hollywood movies in casting, set-building, location filming, and audio and special effects. It also has some of North America’s most expansive and sophisticated studio spaces and facilities, and numerous FX and sound stages.

Major studios include:

  • Lions Gate Studios
  • Vancouver Film Studios
  • The Bridge Studios

 Location, location, location!

A mere two hour flight from LA, both Vancouver and LA share a time zone eliminating issues like operating hours, accessibility, and travel time for actors and key crew. Vancouver’s mild climate allows for year round shooting. Consistent cloud cover naturally diffuses sunlight making it easier for technicians to add additional light. And of course, with so many productions shot here, there is a strong community of skilled crews, technicians and creative experts to draw on.

 Vancouverites Just Love Film

The film festival scene in Vancouver is alive with local and international fare. Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is one of the largest film festivals in North America, with over 500 screenings held over a three week period.

It also features a forum with high profile speakers – 2013 featured Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, and Walter Murch, Oscar nominated master editor of Apocalypse Now and The Godfather.

Other major film festivals include:

  • DOXA – Documentary Film Festival
  • VLAFF – Vancouver Latin American Film Festival
  • VQFF – Vancouver Queer Film Festival
  • EUFF – European Union Film Festival

With a dynamic film scene, Hollywood and indie productions, and everything in between, Vancouver is a great place to be for emerging and professional filmmakers.

Lights, Camera, Action: Odd Jobs On Set

There is a dedicated team of on set film crew members behind every moment of movie magic. From lights, to sound, to art direction, each department is essential in its own way. But what role do production assistants and others in entry level film positions play?

They may not get the same accolades, but their dedication is no less admirable. Especially when it comes to some of the odd jobs they are asked to do on set.

83074344The Dog Whisperer

Heard from an on­ set sound professional with decades of experience in the industry. Even though he is now a well­ respected sound person and an instructor, he had a humble start just like everyone else. One of the first films sets he worked on as a sound PA had an on location shoot in a suburban, residential area. On this particular shoot the sound department faced an unusual challenge. The majority of households had large dogs in their yards that barked through the entire shooting process, rendering most of the location sound unusable. On the second day, the sound PA brought his bicycle on set. Armed with sausage links provided by the production department, he toured the neighbourhood throughout the shoot, hurling links at the barking dogs to keep them quiet – a solution to keep both the production and the dogs happy.

The Apple Stand

Unfortunately this is a fairly familiar tale for grips, especially in low budget productions. A nighttime scene was being shot during the day. The problem was the building had several big windows that had to be blacked out completely; no easy task with a limited amount of equipment. The grip department used everything they had and even had to throw on furniture pads and secure them with duct tape. After all that effort and time a sliver of an opening was still letting in daylight, and ruining the illusion of night. One grip armed himself with a flag and stepped on a stack of apple boxes, found the offending sliver and covered it with the flag. However, before he could call over another grip to help secure the flag in place the production, which by then was already anxious about time, started rolling the camera. The grip had no choice but to hold the flag over his head on his tippy toes on top of the wobbly apple boxes until the scene was completed.

The Spit Catcher

Vancouver is a beautiful city and we often see TV shows shot on the streets of Gastown. This episode included a shot of a character spitting gum on the ground as she was talking. The shot, of course, required multiple angles and takes. The production couldn’t let the actress spit the gum out on to the actual street – out of respect for the city as well as for continuity. So a PA had to kneel in front of the actress, just out of frame, holding a brown paper bag for her to spit the gum in. If that wasn’t quite bad enough, the actress’s aim wasn’t exactly perfect either. The PA actually had to pick a piece of chewed gum off the ground and put it in the bag multiple times, all while being showered with saliva.

The Wardrobe Malfunction Attendant

Some odd jobs on set may not seem so bad. Occasionally, movies are required to target certain rating by the executives. This particular one was to be rated PG­13, which meant a woman’s breasts couldn’t be fully featured on screen. The hard part was it had several sex scenes, which required the actors to be topless. In order to make sure the actress’s breasts were never exposed on screen, the 1st AD had to sit right next to the actress, barely out of frame, and stare at her breasts the whole time. His job that day was to yell cut every time he saw her nipples.

Written by Freddie Kim