Vancouver: Hollywood’s dirty little secret, or a moviemaking paradise? The city has doubled for so many American metropolises on screen—like, in 2016, Jason Reitman’s Tully; Wonder, starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay; Bong Joon-ho’s Okja; the upcoming Power Rangers movie and dozens upon dozens of series—that it’s sometimes easy to forget its own sizeable charm. So what’s all the buzz “aboot?”
The obvious first answer is that production is, simply, cheaper: British Columbia offers a Production Services Tax Credit for international projects with a base refundable 28 percent credit (down from 33 percent before October 2016), with possibilities for an additional 6 percent depending on region, and a 16 percent Digital Animation or Visual Effects (DAVE) credit. For local BC productions, it’s even better: a base refundable credit of 35 percent, up to 12.5 percent regional credit, plus a 30 percent film training credit. There are no caps and no sunset date on these programs.
Vancouver has a tight-knit community of moviemakers (genre ones especially), and a huge slew of production and post facilities and local innovators—including Aircover Inflatables, which won a 2016 Technical Achievement Academy Award for their Airwall, a blow-up green screen. With 16 schools offering filmmaking programs, from Centre for Digital Media and University of British Columbia to Vancouver Film School and the British Columbia Institute of Technology, talented crew is easy to come by.
“People are extremely generous with their willingness to work on your low-budget project,” says Victoria Angell, writer and director of the horror short “Summoned,” currently making the festival rounds. “I’ve managed to get away with having a lot of volunteers that I can pay back with food, credit and other things.”
The festival culture in BC is rich, with the Vancouver International Film Festival (now in its 35th year) hosting the widest array of East Asian films outside of that region, the Whistler Film Festival at a nearby mountain resort town, and the long-running Vancouver Jewish, Asian and Queer Film Festivals all in their third decade of existence. Since 1999, the Crazy8s Film Society has held an eight-day filmmaking challenge to fund and support short moviemaking; the 7-year-old MPPIA Short Film Award also helps short films get off the ground. Indeed, Angell believes that “there are definitely funds available from more public sources here than in most places in the States.”
Located in a non-tropical rainforest, Vancouver can be rainy, sure, but the climate makes for a lot of lush, otherworldly spaces, like the gorgeously dense, 1,001-acre Stanley Park. Fresh seafood abounds across town, as does particularly excellent Chinese food. And yes, downtown rent can be pricey—but once you earn your Canadian citizenship, free healthcare will offset some of the cost, right?