Sagging Loonie or top talent? Either way, North Shore film industry is booming

North Shore Studios president Peter Leitch is expecting 2015 to be a blockbuster year for production. Photo Mike Wakefield

For the second year in a row, the North Shore has seen record-breaking film activity, based on film permits and revenues for the City and District of North Vancouver.

The city issued 77 film permits for feature films, TV shows, commercials, documentaries and music videos in 2014, up from 50 in 2013 and 40 in 2012. Revenues for the city from the permits amounted to $185,000.

The district meanwhile, had 189 permits spread over 77 productions, compared to 90 film shoots in 2013, but revenues hit $714,000 compared to $511,000 the year before.

Among the noteworthy film shoots: Fifty Shades of Grey, Age of Adeline starring Blake Lively and Harrison Ford, Tim Burton’s Big Eyes and the famous Shaw fire log.

The area also saw its share of science fiction, fantasy and comic book adaptations that included Arrow, Falling Skies, The Returned, Supernatural, Once Upon a Time, The Flash, iZombie and the soon-to-shoot Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds and his abs.

Though the Canadian dollar tumbling downward from parity is an obvious appeal to Hollywood productions, it’s just one factor in the larger equation that determines where film shoots go in the highly competitive industry, according to Richard Brownsey, president of Creative B.C., the provincial agency that promotes creative industries.

“People quite often go to the decline in the dollar, and a lower Canadian dollar does help production — there’s no question about that — but I think, fundamentally, the reason that we’re busy is because British Columbia is a really good place to film,” Brownsey said.

Though B.C. still lags behind the eastern provinces and southern states when it comes to tax incentives, the province is known throughout the industry as having the talent and infrastructure to make it a safe bet for producers.

“The highest incentive does not necessarily mean the cheapest production. If you don’t have the infrastructure there, you’ve got to bring it in. If you have questions about whether you’re going to get your content delivered on time and on budget, that gets factored in,” he said.

The industry has also been spurred by the region becoming a hub for animation, visual effects and post-production work, Brownsey added.

For North Shore Studios on Brooksbank Avenue, 2014 was a “decent but not exceptional” year as a couple of long-running TV series came to an end and it took some time to book new productions, according to Peter Leitch, studio president.

But Leitch  said 2015 is shaping up to be another blockbuster year, as new productions are moving into town.

“In general, the climate is excellent right now with the dollar where it is,” Leitch said. “It’s always a pretty competitive business but we feel good about the environment right now.”

Other draws making the Lower Mainland an attractive place to shoot include its year-round warm weather, diverse locations, proximity to Los Angeles and the presence of film schools like the Bosa Centre for Film and Animation at Capilano University.

As for rumours that The X-Files, will make a glorious return:

“I don’t think so but there’s lots of good stuff on its way,” Leitch said.

North Shore Studios employs about 1,000 workers. According to 2013 stats from Creative BC, there are more than 1,100 City of North Vancouver residents on film production payrolls. resulting in $26.5 million in taxable income.

Though it can be a tough slog and the hours are long, film work can provide a very good living, Leitch said.

Both North Vancouvers actively court film productions for the revenues and economic spinoffs they bring. West Vancouver, however, does not market itself as a filming destination and does not keep data on the number of productions.

North Shore News