You may be surprised to discover how much of Vancouver you would recognize just by watching film and television. If you got your Superman fix through the television series "Smallville" you’ll know downtown’s Marine Building as The Daily Planet. Or visit the Vancouver Art Gallery which starred alongside Ben Stiller in "Night at the Museum". Take a walk through Stanley Park at dusk and you might just get the feeling you’re in an episode of "The X-Files". And anyone who has teenagers, or is a teen, will undoubtedly know parts of Mission, which stars in the hit "Twilight" series.
"Hollywood North", as Vancouver is commonly known, is the third largest film centre in North America, trailing only Los Angeles and New York; a title Toronto would love to get its hands on, I might add. With nearly a century of motion picture experience Vancouver supports a $1.2 billion film industry with variety. Unlike New York, that has to ban filming in certain areas of Manhattan because of "over exposure", or L.A. which, frankly, cannot escape looking ‘Californian’, Vancouver sits comfortably nestled in a locale heaven. What do I mean by "locale heaven" exactly? Let me take you on a virtual tour of some of the many places that make it into the film and television we see every day.
Start Downtown where you can find urban grit in many types. Check out the Public Market on Granville Island. Walk down Robson Street for a metropolitan commercial feel or explore historic Gastown for a taste of the good old days. In fact, you’ll catch glimpses of Gastown in the recent fantasy film "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus". If you’re in a weather-beaten maritime mood, drive to the North Shore and Lion’s Bay, or Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast. The Cleveland Dam is a famous back-drop to Harrison Ford’s big drop in "The Fugitive". Go a bit farther north, up the rugged, winding roads and you’ll end up in the alpine flair of beautiful Whistler. Or head east, up the Fraser Valley, and you will end up in the middle of agriculture country, flat as the prairie and ringed by lush green mountains.
I don’t want to mislead you into thinking that it is simply filming locations that make Vancouver such a draw for the film industry. Vancouver has some of the largest film stages in the world, as well as some of the biggest special effects studios. Proximity to Los Angles helps, too. A short flight or a 24 hour drive gets you from Hollywood North to sunny Hollywood itself. This means film crews and equipment can be easily transported to and fro, saving the expense of hiring and training new crews. And, as if huge government subsidies weren’t a good enough lure, it doesn’t hurt that everything happens in Vancouver happens in the same time zone as L.A.
Vancouver, and the entire province of British Columbia for that matter, is a chameleon; it can substitute any number of its geographies and cityscapes as actors, to play the part of other places in film and television. However, this is not to say that Vancouver lacks a "feel" of its own. Once you’ve visited Vancouver - once you’ve walked the streets and experienced the lush forests and rocky coastline – you will be able to spot television and movies that were filmed here, and appreciate the beauty and versatility that Vancouver has to offer.
By Aaron S. McLean
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"People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home" - Dagobert D. Runes