Vancouver’s film industry is known colloquially as “Hollywood North” for international film companies looking to stretch their dollar thanks to affordable production rates and generous tax credit incentives.1
These are just two of the reasons that Vancouver rates as the best city in North America for movie makers, according to a 2017 edition of the American magazine called ‘Movie Maker.’2 Foreign film production companies are easily sold on BC’s Production Services Tax Credit for international projects which provides a base refundable 28 percent tax credit. Local BC productions aren’t missing out either, having access to a base refundable tax credit of 35 percent.
In 2018, the BC Government’s agency, Creative BC, reported that the “budgeted … expenditures of 452 productions qualifying for tax credit certifications during the 2017 – 18 fiscal year contributed $3.4 billion to B.C.’s economy. Within this total budgeted production spend, direct industry jobs and labour income accounted for approximately $1.78 billion. B.C.-based creators accounted for 163 productions, with non-B.C. and foreign companies bringing 289 productions to the province.”3
Film Industry sales in Vancouver
BC’s film revenue of $3.4 billion in 2017 shows that Vancouver is a land of opportunity for anyone within the movie-making industry. All types of services, professions and businesses – carpenters, catering companies, producers and film production companies, makeup artists, film crews, casting directors, studio owners – benefit from this thriving industry. They are the glue that holds Hollywood North together.
However, Vancouver’s film industry has become challenged by the ever-increasing demand for movies by streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon. The reality is that local suppliers of services to the film industry have difficulty keeping up with consumer demands for top quality movies and TV series.
Sales Challenges and Opportunities in Vancouver’s Film Industry
To make sales, Vancouver’s film crews need experienced professionals to service five star movie products such as Deadpool. Fortunately, the city is recognized for its educational film programs offered at BCIT, Vancouver Film School and more.
Questions have been raised as to the ability of local suppliers to meet the demands of foreign filmmakers that rely on top quality support services. In a CBC article, Tara Cowell-Plain, a line producer, says that finding experienced crew members has become a struggle.4
“Some of the people on the crew are not as experienced as we’d like. I kind of look at all films as a great training ground for people that are coming into the industry, and we need those people in the industry so there’s a responsibility there.”
The good news is that this demand has created a tremendous opportunity for talented film crew trainees to enter the industry in addition to the myriad of recruiting opportunities for the experienced professionals already in the field.
Vancouver’s urban landscape is in high demand by production companies, especially during the sunny summer months. But with so many films being produced at the same time, working with city officials and reserving spots around city bylaws has become a big issue, according to Cowell-Plain.4
“It’s been very challenging…everything from trying to find crew who have experience, to working with local city officials, in terms of shooting downtown with other productions and their schedules, and obviously the efficiencies the city needs to maintain for residents.”
In 2017, there were “70 film, television and commercial shoots taking place on city streets in August alone.” A line producer or anyone in charge of planning the logistics for a feature film in Vancouver now faces the challenge of production companies securing the same venue sought after by other production companies.
Martini Film Studios is taking advantage of this lack of space by building a 600,000-square-foot facility in Langley. According to the Journal of Commerce, “The new studio development is expected to raise Greater Vancouver’s film capacity by as much as 15 per cent. The region is currently home to about two million square feet of film-ready soundstage space. Soundstage space is in demand because film production spending in the province continues to rise.”5
This type of studio growth is necessary if Vancouver is to remain competitive with other cities in attracting moviemakers, according to Vancouver Film Commission director David Shepheard. “Landmark facilities like Martini Film Studios are an incredible boon to Vancouver’s film industry. The development of cutting-edge infrastructure is vital to maintaining our position as a top global film hub.”5
Vancouver’s Hollywood North has grown. The soaring demand for the services of local film companies and professionals begs the question of how much further Vancouver can grow to fit the non-stop growth of the world’s film economy. This creates positive sales opportunities for businesses looking to play their part in making big films and ensuring Vancouver remains Hollywood North. Today their challenge in making sales is to improvise and stay imaginative, just like the very films they help produce.
1 “Tax Credit Certifications 2017.” Creative BC, 2018. https://www.creativebc.com/database/files/library/Tax_Credit_Certifications_2017_18_web_release.pdf.
2 Gottlieb, Maggie, and Julie Pearson. “The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2017 – Page 3 of 23.” Movie Maker Magazine, September 27, 2019. https://www.moviemaker.com/archives/winter-2017/best-places-to-live-and-work-as-a-moviemaker-2017/3/.
3 “B.C.’s Motion Picture Industry Contributes $3.4B to the Provincial Economy.” Creative BC, July 16, 2018. https://www.creativebc.com/2018/07/16/press-release-bcs-motion-picture-industry-contributes-34b-to-the-provincial-economy.php.
4 Baker, Rafferty. “’It’s Been Very Challenging’: Movie Productions Vying for Space and Staff in Vancouver .” CBC, August 16, 2017. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-film-boom-strikes-again-1.4248817.
5 Cameron, Grant. “Massive New Production Studio Envisioned for Langley, B.C. – Constructconnect.com.” Journal Of Commerce, December 10, 2019. https://canada.constructconnect.com/joc/news/projects/2019/12/massive-new-production-studio-envisioned-for-langley-b-c.