Vancouver’s film and television production industry has had its ups and downs. After surging for the past 10 years, it’s declined recently, suffering from a less appealing exchange rate between the Canadian loonie and the American greenback, and because of the industry’s slowdown since last winter’s writers’ strike.
“There is definitely less production going on right now,” writer-producer Brad Wright told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. The strike and the exchange, he said from his office at Vancouver’s Bridge Studios, has “had an affect on this town. There is less television being made.”
Wright would know. He’s an executive producer of the Stargate franchise, but he first came to Vancouver from Toronto some 20 years ago to work as assistant story editor on Neon Rider.
He ended up staying in Vancouver, writing scripts for Canadian-produced television shows on a freelance basis. Then The Outer Limits came to town. Wright, a fan of the science-fiction genre, jumped at the chance to write for the show. His second script got him a job in the writers’ room. By the middle of season two, he was executive producing.
More than a dozen years later, Wright has no reason to leave Vancouver. The Stargate television franchise, started by Wright and Jonathan Glassner (another Outer Limits veteran), is healthy. When Stargate SG-1 ended its 10-year run in 2007, it was the longest-running science-fiction show on North American television, and spinoff Stargate: Atlantis is strong in its fifth year of production. (In Canada it airs on Movie Central and Space.)
Wright’s first movie, Stargate: Continuum, releases on DVD and Blu-ray on July 29. It’s a time-travel tale in which the Stargate program gets erased by the meddling of a long-time enemy and forces the SG-1 team to set things right and prevent Earth from falling into the hands of the Goa’uld.
Another problem faced by Vancouver productions is fewer locations for shooting. Fifteen years ago, 80 percent of the footage for Vancouver-lensed shows like Stargate SG-1 and The X-Files came from location shoots. Many of those locations have since become condo developments. “We’re running out of trees to run through,” Wright joked at a media event at Bridge Studios back in May.
The Stargate solution is to shoot more in-studio. On The Ark of Truth, a straight-to-DVD film directed by Wright’s partner Robert Cooper and released in March, they shot on a large village set constructed on a sound stage. In earlier days, locations in Maple Ridge would have been used instead. “It was easy,” Wright recalled on the phone. “You could point the camera in three directions and not see anything.”
Wright is bullish on Vancouver’s future in the film and television industry. MGM, the studio that produces the Stargate properties, wants another spinoff series and another pair of movies. Wright said the only decision to be made is whether to make two more movies or start up another series. “All I can do is take care of my own little corner of the universe up here,” Wright said, “and make sure that we have more product being made and shows being put into the pipeline.”