Tomorrowland finds the future in British Columbia

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      The future is British Columbia.

      That would be what Disney's Tomorrowland seems to imply, when it comes to film productions. The sci-fi blockbuster, starring George Clooney and Britt Robertson, cast B.C. to play numerous roles.

      At a preview screening on May 21 at Scotiabank Theatre Vancouver, several guests spoke about the significance that the production had shooting here in B.C.

      When the Georgia Straight asked producer Jeffrey Chernov why B.C. was chosen as a shooting location, he explained that he became well-acquainted with the area because he had previously shot Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol with director Brad Bird (who also directed Tomorrowland) here.

      "When the script came across my desk for Tomorrowland, I was like 'I believe this is the right place to bring the movie to, Brad,' " he told the Georgia Straight. "I said, 'Look, they have great crews, they have the infrastructure, they have the stages, and I just know that because it's somewhat of a road picture, we're going to be able to accommodate a lot of the movie.' I also knew that we were going to have to do a lot of traveling on this film because it's a road picture so we moved nine times on this movie."

      Part of B.C.'s appeal as a filming location was the province's varied geography that could be found within close proximity.

      "You don't have to go very far outside of Vancouver to get into farmland, and get into some mountain ranges, and you can just keep going north. You can find all the great things you want. There's great diversity here."

      In addition to shooting in Vancouver (including filming at the University of British Columbia, the Vancouver Museum, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre); Enderby, British Columbia; and Pincher Creek, Alberta, the production also shot in Florida; Eleuthera, Bahamas; Paris, France; Valencia, Spain; and L.A.

      MLA Greg Kyllo, parliamentary secretary for the BC Jobs Plan, and MLA Naomi Yamamoto, minister of state for tourism and small business
      Craig Takeuchi

      MLA Naomi Yamamoto, minister of state for tourism and small business, spoke about the spin-off tourism sparked by large productions. While she noted that there aren't any specific programs or campaigns designed to capitalize on the phenomenon, it's something on the government's radar.  

      "It's something that's just started to develop," she said. "I know that we have seen folks go into Steveston for Once Upon a Time, and people actually wanting to visit the elevator, you know that famous scene in Fifty Shades of Grey and the hotel. So it's actually just starting and we're looking for opportunities for sure on how we can actually help increase that interest."

      MLA Greg Kyllo, parliamentary secretary for the BC Jobs Plan, spoke about how the film has boosted B.C.'s profile as a filming location.

      "We're seeing the uptake and increase in tourism and the amount of films that are actually filmed in this area....When we have companies as huge as Disney, world recognized leaders in the industry, when they're actually tagging 'filmed in beautiful British Columbia' as part of their marketing, it is just an absolute amazing opportunity we have in this province and the first time in Canada that we've actually had a province actually recognized and actually associated with the filming."

      Accounting firm MNP LLP estimated that the production's direct expenditures in B.C. totaled $91.9 million.  The production received approximately $21.8 million in support through tax incentives from the provincial government, as well as $4.6 million in tax incentives from the federal government.

      Spallumcheen Mayor Janice Brown said the production, which used Spallumcheen's parks and recreation facility and seniors home, provided her township, which is located near Enderby, with cash influx.

      "For a small community, it's such a big impact," she said. "You know, $25,000…is a one percent tax increase when you have 5,000 people. So flushing that kind of money into a municipality makes big, big differences and people appreciate it."

      Local talent was also employed in front of the camera for the film. Among the cast is Montreal-raised, Vancouver-based actor Matthew MacCaull, who talked about his character Dave Clark in the film. Clark is an assistant to the dastardly David Nix, played by Hugh Laurie.

      "He's a very mysterious, smooth, cool character," MacCaull explained. "He's far cooler than I actually am in real life so it was a real treat to be able to play someone that awesome. But he's just very invested in protecting the secrets and the science of Tomorrowland, and he's very curious as to why George Clooney and Britt Robertson's characters are also interested in Tomorrowland."

      MacCaull, who has had appeared on TV series such as Fringe, The Killing, and Motive, and the B.C. film Black Fly, was particularly thrilled having to film two scenes with Clooney.

      "When you get into acting, you like to think that one day, you might even be a big star. But when somebody comes up and says, 'You're gonna be doing scenes with George Clooney' and they shake you like, 'Aw, man, could you believe this?', you're like wow. Then it hits you and starts to sink in that 'Oh my goodness, this is actually happening!' It was very surreal really."

      According to MNP, the production employed 1,848 full-time equivalents in B.C.

      The film, which follows a former boy genius (Clooney) and a teenage science buff (Robertson) on a mission to unlock the secrets about a mysterious place called Tomorrowland, opens today (May 22) in B.C. theatres.