Robust & Evolving: West Coast Film in 2016
by Roberta McDonald – West Coast Editor
(January 17, 2016 – Vancouver, BC) 2016 has been busy to the point of dizzying for B.C. film. It’s near impossible to get a word in with film folk as they’re trying to keep up with the magnitude of productions shooting in the province.
The Ryan Reynolds blockbuster Deadpool, which shut down the Dunsmuir Viaduct, shot scenes in the notorious Cobalt on Main, and employed over 2,000 local film professionals has become almost mythical with trivia listicles popping up online. Deadpool 2, with the cheeky working title Love Machine is slated for filming this month and is certain to be a boon for local crews and businesses.
Beyond the badassery of the comic book genre, Netflix has emerged as a heavyweight since they started creating their own content in 2013. The model of shooting an entire series without fear of cancellation is fantastic news for everyone from emerging set designers to seasoned cinematographers. Binge watching equals steady gigs for crews.
Surrey has been sizzling with a record 170 film permits issued in 2016. The fetching new city hall is a draw for many productions, along with spacious studios, a rarity in Vancouver. Hollywood heavyweights Skydance Media opened a new 75,000 square foot studio in Newton in 2016.
While the big productions from south of the border are bringing plenty of opportunity and cash into the province, there is also a vibrant First Nations filmmaking community. The Road Forward, directed by Métis/Dene filmmaker Marie Clements (pictured above), is an “inventive documentary musical” about Canada’s first indigenous run newspaper the Native Voice and features an original score and appearances from some of the country’s foremost activists. Produced by the National Film Board (NFB), it is currently being submitted to festivals.
Notably, on Vancouver Island a unique partnership between award-winning Inuit film artist Zacharias Kunuk, which will be co-directed by Helen Haig-Brown and Gwaai Edenshaw will be the first feature film shot with an all Haida cast speaking the two regional dialects. With a modest $1.8 million budget, The Edge of the Knife is slated to go to camera in May 2017. The NFB produced Mountain of SGaana by Haida artist Christopher Auchter will be touring the festival circuit in 2017. The exquisite ten-minute animation is inspired by traditional Haida stories.
In addition, female filmmakers are carving out new paths and making a mark in the industry. For the first time in the history of The Motion Picture Production Industry Association of British Columbia (MPPIA) Short Film Award Pitch at the Whistler Film Festival, all five pitchers were women. The MPPIA Short Film Award is a staple at the alpine festival, as eager directors share their passion projects on stage before a jury of industry professionals for robust prizes.
The winner gets a $10,000 cash award from MPPIA, a $5,000 cash award from Creative BC, plus in-kind production services up to $100,000 for a short film project to be completed within one year, with the added bonus of a premiere at the 2017 Whistler Film Festival.
The interior of the province has been on fire as well, with the Nicholas Cage futuristic film the Humanity Bureau shooting in Okanagan Falls and the Power Rangers productions team closing down main streets in Kamloops. The upcoming documentary Hat’ak has also been filming, posing a new theory that multiple serial killers live along or near the Highway of Tears.
It’s difficult to say what 2017 will bring with the new American administration and a provincial election looming this spring. But for now BC film is busier than ever and some of the world’s most invigorating, provocative and artful films are being created here.
Based in Vancouver, Roberta McDonald is West Coast Editor for Northernstars.ca. She is a best selling writer, arts journalist and photographer. She has profiled extraordinary filmmakers, including Ang Lee and Sturla Gunnerson. Her short film The Spiral was released in 2014 and she is currently writing her first feature screenplay.