Another blockbuster year for North Shore film

Municipalities are reporting record numbers of film shoots and revenues for 2016 

Film crew members work on the set of the Netflix remake of Lost in Space shooting in Lynn Canyon Park | Submitted

Some North Shore residents' new neighbours in the last year may have included Power Rangers, reindeer and a robot with flailing appendages warning “Danger! Danger!”

All three of the North Shore’s municipalities are reporting record numbers of film shoots and revenues for 2016.

The District of North Vancouver hosted 122 TV, movie and commercial productions in 2016, 38 per cent more than the previous year. That brought in $643,000 in fees for general revenues, up 17 per cent from the year before.

West Vancouver almost doubled the number of film permits issued to 60 and more than tripled the amount of cash it brought in from film permits, inspection and location fees, and contributions to park amenities at $175,000.

The City of North Vancouver, meanwhile enjoyed a 47 per cent increase in film permits to 178 and brought in just under $378,000 in revenue, 95 per cent more than in 2015.

“I’ve got three film permits on my desk I haven’t even processed yet,” said Clare Husk, the city’s filming co-ordinator. “This is the busiest we’ve all been.”

Some of the bigger productions shot locally draw on nostalgia, albeit from different generations. Remakes of Power Rangers for the big screen and Lost in Space for Netflix had extended film stays here.

Other features included more of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, Everything, Everything, Tully featuring Charlize Theron and The Soloutrean, which brought a herd of reindeer to Princess Park. “I find it fabulous when kids come across them … and think ‘Santa Claus is just taking a break,” said Alice To, the district’s business and film co-ordinator.

Major TV series shot on the North Shore include DC: Legends of Tomorrow, Lucifer, Prison Break, The Man in the High Castle and ZOO. As always, there were a plethora of commercials as well, especially for the auto industry.

Perhaps the most recognizable location when it hits the screen is a scene shot on the Burrard Pier for Netflix’s production of Death Note, a psychological thriller adapted from a Japanese comic book. Crews dressed the pier up to look like a carnival, including a partial ferris wheel, while a helicopter swooped overhead, late into the night.

“I should have had them tell people at least six blocks up the hill. I really didn’t realize how loud that helicopter was going to be,” Husk said. “I had a lot of interaction with the public the next day.”

Following the fiasco, the Death Note production made a number of donations to local community groups. Similarly, the production of the TV show ZOO made a donation to the North Vancouver City Library Foundation after occupying the civic plaza for a shoot. Appropriately, the foundation intends to spend the money on a video production table for city residents, Husk said.

To said, despite record filming, she is generally receiving fewer complaints from residents.

The two largest payroll companies that work for the film industry reported $79 million in wages was paid to workers with addresses in North Vancouver in 2015, with the city having the highest per capita number of film workers in the province, Husk noted.

Increasingly, the cheques are being signed not by traditional Hollywood studios, but rather streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and Hulu, according to To. “They need product. That’s what’s driving filming up here,” she said.

The province rolled back the tax breaks it offers production companies on their labour costs in 2016, although the industry has been shielded by a number of other advantages, according to Peter Leitch, president of North Shore Studios.

“There are so many factors that determine where a production goes. When the dollar is low like this, Canada becomes a very attractive jurisdiction. We’re also in the same time zone as Los Angeles. There are so many other advantages of coming here – the infrastructure we’ve got, the crews, the cast members that we’ve got here. We’re just a very desirable location,” he said.