British Columbia: 3rd-largest film production centre in North America
By Sue Kernaghan
Planning a trip to British Columbia? You could start at your local movie theatre. British Columbia, it turns out, isn't just gorgeous; it's also talented. All that fabulous scenery has another life, playing locations-from vampire-infested small towns to alien planets-in hundreds of movies and TV shows over the years, from the iconic
"X-Files" to the blockbuster "Twilight" series.
During the latter half of 2010 alone, six feature films and 14 TV shows were shot, or set to shoot, in BC, including
"This Means War" with Reese Witherspoon, the Amanda Seyfried feature
"Red Riding Hood" and small-screen sci-fi favourites "Fringe," "Psych" and
"Supernatural." In 2009, the province played host to 239 productions. What does it all mean? There's enough cinematic action here to make BC the third-largest film production centre in North America.
Why BC? As they say, it's location, location, location.
Christine Kilpatrick, a Vancouver, BC-area freelance journalist and film fan, runs On Location Tours Vancouver, escorting visitors to movie and TV locations around town. She explains why
producers keep coming back: "Vancouver has always been a really great place to film because we have everything a production company could want. We have eight studio facilities, encompassing almost a million square feet of purpose-built stages, 30,000 experienced professional cast and crew members and numerous film- school programs. And we have the geography: everything from farmers' fields to rivers, mountains, glaciers, craggy canyons, cityscapes, small villages-Steveston
and Ladner are especially popular for small-town looks-as well as ultra-modern structures and older areas like Gastown."
Check out, for example, the Marine Building at the foot of Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver. A gorgeous example of Art Deco architecture, this 1930s skyscraper makes a perfect Daily Planet set for
"Smallville," a show about Superman's early life that was filmed for 10 seasons in Vancouver. Spin through the revolving doors à la Clark Kent for a look at the zodiac mosaics and gleaming brass elevator doors, or dine like a superhero at the Imperial, a glamorous Chinese restaurant in the lobby.
While you're in town, stroll through the Vancouver Public Library, and try matching the facade to any of dozens of sci-fi flicks filmed here. This structure has played museums, cityscapes and evil corporate headquarters in everything from "Mr. Magoo" to
It's not just Vancouver. A short drive north along the famously scenic Sea to Sky Highway leads to the recently refurbished Britannia Mine Museum, where you can ride an underground mine train and visit the 26-storey Mill building (a National Historic Site)-both used in more than 50 films and dozens of TV shows, from "Scooby Doo 2" to
"The Outer Limits" and "The X-Files." While there, you can pan for real gold and explore the theatre, exhibits and mineral gallery in the new Beaty-Lundin Visitor Centre.
Just a few kilometres north is Squamish, where the ocean and mountain setting was just right for the fictional Elmo, Alaska, (USA), in the Anne Heche dramedy
"Men in Trees." The difference? The real Squamish is a lot more fun. The area's legendary rock climbing, hiking, biking, windsurfing, golf and scuba options-plus the microbrews at Howe Sound Brewing Company-have made it one of Canada's top outdoor destinations.
Finish this cinematic road trip with dinner at Whistler's Araxi, a top-rated eatery featured as part of the prize going to the winner of the reality-cooking-drama "Hell's Kitchen." Also here? The slopes, scenery and celebration plaza caught on camera during the 2010 Winter Games.
Further inland, the grasslands, hoodoos and sandstone canyons around Ashcroft and Cache Creek, in BC's Thompson Okanagan region, set the stage for everything from Yellowstone National Park to a Tibetan village in the apocalyptic blockbuster "2012." Camp riverside at Juniper Beach Provincial Park or stay in a traditional First Nations kekuli shelter at the Historic Hat Creek Ranch; odds are the earth will not disappear under your feet.
And when Hollywood needs the Himalayas? BC's Rocky Mountains have so far played the roof of the world in "K2" and "Kundun." The Coast Mountains' endless tracts of alpine backcountry-some stretches bigger than the Swiss Alps-are great for filming and even better for heli-skiing. Bella Coola Heli Sports can get you there.
Vancouver Island is also rich with film sets. Hatley Park National Historic Site near Victoria, for example, has played, among other things, Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters in the "X-Men" movies and Lex Luthor's mansion in "Smallville." Not a dastardly villain or gifted mutant? No problem. You can still tour the century-old ivy-draped Hatley Castle-one of Canada's best-preserved Edwardian estates-and wander year-round through the Italian, rose and Japanese gardens on the seaside grounds.
Twi-hards? Follow the "New Moon" crew to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve near Tofino on Vancouver Island's west coast. The shore's pounding surf, moody rainforest and miles of driftwood-strewn beach are seriously romantic, with or without vampires.
Kilpatrick's On Location Tours Vancouver covers most of the key Lower Mainland twi-sites. Stops on the six-hour tour include Capilano River Regional Park in North Vancouver, including the very log where vampire Edward (played by heartthrob Robert Pattinson) breaks up with Kristen Stewart's mortal Bella character.
Says Kilpatrick: "That's what excites guests the most; knowing they are standing right where the stars stood in a favourite scene. A lot of fans have read the book six or seven times and have seen the films as many times."
Capilano River Regional Park is, she reveals, "a well-used woods in the film industry.
It's accessible, but you can't see any development from there. Sometimes while we're there we'll see other filming going on: independent movies, music videos and TV commercials-you name it." The park appeals to hikers for the same reason: it offers a chance to explore pristine rainforest just minutes from downtown.
The tour also includes a stop at Jacob's house in Coquitlam (a suburb east of Vancouver; he's the cute werewolf played by Taylor Lautner). "While we're there, we stop at Minnekhada Lodge (a 1934 hunting lodge) in Minnekhada Park; chances are we'll see black bears in the blueberry fields. For so many fans, seeing a bear in the wild is a real highlight of their trip."
Even non-Twihards find it's a pretty cool way to see the city. Says Kilpatrick: "My tours are off the beaten track; they get people out of the downtown core to places visitors would never normally see."
And, psst, don't look now, but isn't that...? For star gazing, Kilpatrick recommends Yaletown, Vancouver's chic, revitalized warehouse district. "Celebrities love
Yaletown. Say, Cioppino's-Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire have been spotted there. The "Twilight" cast enjoys
Rodney's Oyster House, and
Blue Water Café + Raw Bar is always a celebrity hot spot.
Raincity Grill in the West End is also popular; Lady Gaga was seen there recently. She was very dressed down, but still with the sky-high heels."
You heard it here first.
Award-winning travel writer Sue Kernaghan has covered Africa, Europe and Asia, but her first love is British Columbia. For more than 10 years she's explored it in-depth, writing features for magazines, newspapers and websites. She's also contributed to a number of guidebooks, including Fodor's, Northwest Best Places and Best Places to Kiss. A fourth-generation British Columbian, she's originally from Vancouver and now lives on Salt Spring Island, BC.
Photo Credit & Article:
courtesy, Canadian Tourism Commission