Posted December 14, 2009 by Adam Toren in Blogs

Whatever Happened to Hollywood North?

shutterstock_38614918In 2004, newspaper headlines were all doom and gloom when it came to British Columbia’s film and television production sector. In one year alone, total spending in BC’s most alluring industry tumbled 43 percent to $800 million. The industry meltdown was primarily blamed on the exodus of American producers who had abandoned BC due to rising costs thanks to a soaring Canadian dollar.

Many believed that this meant lights out for BC’s film industry and spelled the end to Vancouver’s self-proclaimed moniker—’Hollywood North’.

Since 2005, however, the industry has resurrected itself, in spite of the strong Canadian dollar. Film and television production spending in this province totaled $1.2 billion in 2008, up more than $250 million from 2007; 2009 is expected to be just as good. BC is now unequivocally the third largest production centre in North America, after California and New York.

Some industry observers say the province’s rebound can be directly attributed to the tax credits that the provincial government raised immediately after the industry dip in 2004—BC now entices film and TV producers with a 25 percent tax credit on labour expenditures. Virtually every other province and US state, however, also offer similar incentives.

“There’s always going to be ups and downs in the industry because of tax credits or the value of the Canadian dollar,” says Vancouver-based film producer and industry observer Dennis Tal.

“The reason our industry in BC has rebounded, however, is because we have a lot to offer. We have a skilled labour force, excellent soundstages, and great scenery. It also helps that we’re only two hours away from L.A, the hub [of film production in North America].”

Tal says that BC has been very successful in attracting a wide range of productions from the United States. He also notes that BC has developed a competitive advantage in two emerging segments: animation and computer generated imaging (CGI).

“Having shows such as Battlestar Galactica and Andromeda produced here has helped create significant local infrastructure and technology for the animation and CGI industries,” he says.

From feature blockbusters and low-budget TV movies to domestically produced documentaries and cartoons, the film and production industry continues to be a boon to the BC economy. While it’s had its ups and downs, the industry has tripled in the last 15 years and now employs more than 35,000 people.

Seeing the likes of Angelina Jolie sipping Pellegrino on Robson or Halle Berry splurging at Holt Renfrew is something Vancouverites should get used to. It is, after all, still Hollywood North.

Adam Toren

Adam Toren
Adam Toren is born and raised in Vancouver BC and loves everything Vancouver BC has to offer. He loves traveling and exploring new and unique restaurants and places around the world.