If it feels like there’s been more lights, cameras and action around here lately, it’s because there has.
After tanking in 2020, thanks to COVID-19, the amount of filming activity shot up in 2021, according to North Vancouver and West Vancouver stats. Local filming activity had been at record levels in 2019, and 2020 was shaping up to be another doozy when the pandemic struck.
“In the middle of March, everything stopped,” said Clare Husk, filming co-ordinator for the City of North Vancouver.
After the initial shutdown, production studios were able to get back up and running, albeit under some very strict protocols.
The city issued 97 film permits for 61 different movies, TV shows and commercials in 2021, bringing in $349,800 in revenue for municipal coffers, up from 78 permits and $117,751 in 2020.
West Vancouver hosted 108 film “circuses” as the mobile production sets are called, yielding $451,500 in fees to the district, up significantly from the $285,200 and just 65 permits in 2020.
The District of North Vancouver hosted 82 film shoots, requiring 206 permits and providing more than $1 million in revenue (including costs recovered for things like RCMP overtime) last year. In 2020, the district had only 63 productions and $827,804 in revenues.
For years, the North Shore has been a mainstay for scenes in Nancy Drew, The Flash, Batwoman and Supergirl, all of which were back in 2021.
Keen-eyed viewers of Netflix’s highly popular The Adam Project may have spotted Dundarave Village and John Lawson Park as the backdrop to Vancouver-born film star Ryan Reynolds.
Sonic the Hedgehog got some shopping done at the West Esplanade IGA in his sequel move, which is still in theatres.
Several locations around the North Vancouver and West Vancouver were featured in Swan Song, Apple TV+’s sci-fi/drama about human cloning, starring Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and many-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close.
And, although it has not yet been released, Peter Pan & Wendy – the Disney+’ mostly live-action remake of the 1953 animated classic, was also shot locally. When it debuts, it will feature Jude Law as Captain Hook and comedian Jim Gaffigan as his bungling first mate, Smee.
Others are likely to get noticed locally – like a Mexican commercial that includes construction workers singing the Pepto Bismol jingle to a man with an upset tummy as he sits in a traffic jam on Grand Boulevard.
And the Shipyards was featured prominently in Honsla Rakh, the highest-grossing Punjabi film ever made. The musical rom-com, which is available to stream on Amazon Prime, is about a single-father attempting to date again.
“They had dance scenes everywhere from the megabench and Shipbuilders Square, down the pier and Wallace Mews – all over,” Husk said. “That was, again, very fun, very vibrant, very colourful.”
Because of the need for physical distancing, productions required more space for things like mobile dressing rooms and work trailers. And sets themselves had a system for reducing the risk of an outbreak during filming.
“Just watching it made me feel very stressed. Everybody was wearing colour-coded wristbands, that told them who they could be close to, and who they could not be in the same bubble with,” Husk said. “It was like watching an amazing dance.”
Municipalities hire film co-ordinators like Husk to help woo in productions but also to help regulate them and prevent “film fatigue” from setting in. That means limiting the number of days crews may monopolize the parking on a given street or giving residents some say in whether filming may take place outside their homes overnight.
Although the financial contribution the film business makes to the municipalities directly is relatively small, the amount of money paid to local film workers is substantial.
For 2020 (the most recent year of stats available), more than $58 million was paid to workers living in the District of North Vancouver, according to Creative BC, the province’s film and creative industry marketing agency. More than $34 million in wages were paid to workers with an address in the City of North Vancouver, and West Vancouver residents earned $18.5 million working on film sets. (Those numbers only include wages paid on unionized sets and don’t include commercials.)
“At the time, the two municipalities that had the highest number of people that worked in film per capita were the City of North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver,” Husk said. “This is why when you talk to people, they either know somebody who works in film or their neighbours worked in the film or their kids work in film, or they had a summer job helping out some production. We have a huge film industry in the city and district.”
Other films and TV shows shot in North Vancouver and West Vancouver in 2021:
- Monsters High
- The Adam Project
- Movies of the Week
- A Million Little Things S3 & S4
- Devil in Ohio
- Hall of Men
- DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
- The Midnight Club
- The Mysterious Benedict Society
- Resident Alien
- Superman & Lois
- Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist
- National Parks