B.C. film and TV industries hit "phenomenal" year: record $2.6 billion spent, with stable forecast

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      Due to a number of contributing factors, B.C.'s film and TV industries often face boom or bust periods.

      Yet despite heightened competition, B.C. has not only maintained its position as one of North America's major film centres but hit a record high this past year for the amount that productions have spent in the province.

      Screen production expenditures in B.C. totalled an estimated $2.6 billion within the 2016-17 fiscal year, which represents an increase of over 35 percent from the previous year.

      One of the contributing factors for the increase within B.C. has been the spike in the number of feature films made in B.C. within this period: 114 projects ($1.2 billion), which shot upward from 65 ($686.3 million) in 2015-16 and 73 ($672.2 million) in 2014-15.

      Chow Yun-Fat

      Some of the recent projects filmed here this past year include Richard Says Goodbye, starring Johnny Depp; the Hong Kong action-drama Project Gutenberg, starring Chow Yun-Fat and Aaron Kwok; Overboard, starring Anna Farris; Dragged Across Concrete, starring Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn; The Predator, starring Boyd Holbrook and Olivia Munn; Hard Powder, starring Liam Neeson; Light of My Life, starring and directed by Casey Affleck; and Vancouver filmmaker Mina Shum's Meditation Park, starring Cheng Pei Pei, Tzi Mah, Sandra Oh, and Don McKellar.


      Meanwhile, Deadpool 2, starring Ryan Reynolds; Skyscraper, starring Dwayne Johnson and Neve Campbell; and The Women of Marwen, starring Steve Carrell and Diane Kruger, are all still currently in production. 

      Creative BC, the independent agency which administers the province's film tax credit program, approved 338 tax-credit certifications for 2016-17 compared to 297 approvals (totalling $1.9 billion) in 2015-16.

      Creative BC CEO Prem Gill delivered remarks at the Vancouver International Film Festival's Sustainable Production Forum on October 4.
      Craig Takeuchi

      Creative BC CEO Prem Gill spoke with the Georgia Straight at the Vancouver International Film Centre during the Vancouver International Film Festival about what she described as a "phenomenal year" that the province is having.

      She pointed out that the province benefits from geographical diversity that has attracted productions such as the recently released feature film The Mountain Between Us, starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet.

      "We have a lot of great locations across the province so that is still highly desirable," she said. "You can come to B.C. and you can be up in the mountains if you need to. You can go to Ashcroft and it can look like Afghanistan. That is all part of the appeal. We are kind of a one-stop shop for that."

      Despite media coverage about California stealing TV series away from B.C. with their revamped tax credit program, the volume of TV series shot here has remained on par with previous years. In 2016-17 there were 110 series spending a total of $1.1 billion, compared to 112 series ($959.7 million) in 2015-16 and 97 ($1.1 billion) in 2014-15.

      "There's always sort of this 'Oh, a series has left B.C. to go to California or elsewhere'," Gill said. "There's usually something to replace it, if not more than one. So we remain a great place for people to shoot pilots."

      TV productions that relocated from Vancouver to Los Angeles over the past year or so include Legion, Lucifer, Timeless, and Mistresses.

      Olivia Munn stars in two productions shot in B.C. this year: the feature film The Predator and the TV series Six.

      However, that hasn't stopped series from moving in the opposite direction, such as Colony, Supergirl, and The X-Files (which relocated from Vancouver to L.A. during its original run but is shooting its revival series here). That's in addition to Six and The Exorcist, which moved here from other U.S. cities.

      What's more, numerous TV series chose Vancouver to shoot their pilot episode or first season in over this past year, including The Crossing, Deadly Class, Ghost Wars, The Good Doctor, The Green Beret’s Guide to the Apocalypse, Hit the Road, Life Sentence, Singularity, Siren, The Trustee, Riverdale, and Snowpiercer.

      B.C. Film Commissioner Sandi Richter Cooper
      Craig Takeuchi

      B.C. Film Commissioner Sandi Richter Cooper, who was appointed to the position in May, credited the various local organizations and companies that have been working cooperatively with each other.

      "The impact has been incredibly well-managed through collaboration through the municipal film offices, the various regional film commissions," she told the Straight at the VIFC. "All the industry stakeholders…are phenomenally collaborative relative to what you might expect. You have the unions and guilds at the table together with industry organizations, infrastructure from studios to supply houses, and everybody really working together to make sure we maintain the level of excellence that people have come to expect from us."

      In August, CBC News reported that the large volume of productions meant the industry was working at capacity, creating challenges and putting a strain on the availability of locations, crew members, and resources.

      According to Creative BC, Metro Vancouver has over 2.5 million square feet of studio space and a collective B.C. labour force of 40,000 people, thus enabling Metro Vancouver to potentially support over 100 studios and 50 productions simultaneously.  

      Several film studios have also opened up over the past year. Vancouver Film Studios and EveryWhere Studios joined forces to launch 50° North Productions in June 2016. In April of this year, local actor Gemma Martini opened Martini Film Studios in Langley, which features an eight-stage 150,000-square-foot film lot with an additional 100,000 square feet of support space. In September, India's Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited opened a production studio in Vancouver, becoming one of the first Indian broadcasters to do so in Canada.

      The X-Files

      Gill said that as the province's film commission, Creative B.C. sees all potential projects coming into the province, sometimes ahead of film studios, and the outlook is looking good.

      "When we look forward into the next year or two years, we see things being pretty steady right in terms of what we're getting, in terms of people interested in B.C., wanting to come here," she said.

      Richter Cooper pointed out that what is being experienced locally is part of a larger trend in the international growth of screen industries.

      "Demand for content is increasing globally and B.C. may be either getting a bigger piece of the pie but the pie overall is growing," Richter Cooper said.

      Gill echoed that observation by noting the increased presence of streaming platforms.

      "Globally, the TV and film industry has never been busier and here in B.C., we continue to see new customers like Netflix and Amazon wanting to be in this jurisdiction because of everything we have: we have the strong talent base, we have infrastructure, we've been in this business for 30 years, our proximity to Los Angeles," she said.