Mar 22, 2019
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B.C.’s film industry: From doom and gloom to major boom

Actor Ellie Harvie is feeling good about this year. She played three guest-star roles recently — a medical examiner and two coroners — and she’s awaiting word on whether her YTV sitcom Some Assembly Required will be coming back for another season.

But a couple of years ago it was another story, as Harvie and other film-industry types watched business flee B.C. in favour of Toronto and various U.S states that were offering bigger financial incentives to film there.

“I thought ‘What the hell is happening?’, like no auditions,” Harvie recalls. “So I went online, looked at Toronto and counted 30 productions. I came back and counted our film list and there were eight.”

In January 2013, film industry workers held a rally at North Shore Studios, demanding that the provincial government help stem the loss of productions to high tax-credit regimes in Ontario, Quebec and the U.S. At the time, Ontario was offering producers tax credits not just on labour but on everything they spent in that province, and many in the industry were saying B.C. should match those terms.

Now, as B.C.’s film industry is busier than ever, the B.C. government ’s refusal to raise tax credits is looking like the right move. For the first 11 months of the fiscal year that ended this past March, movie spending in B.C. totalled $1.8 billion, according to Creative B.C., the provincial agency that deals with the film business. So the 12-month total will easily be B.C.’s best ever.

The year that ended in March 2012, drew $1.335 billion in production spending.

TRAILERS: B.C.’S TOP FOUR MOVIES AT THE BOX OFFICE

Industry sources said U.S. producers who were lured away by high tax credits came back after those credits proved not to be enough to make up for other advantages offered in B.C. A drop in the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar didn’t hurt either.

Compared to other U.S. and Canadian locations, B.C. has more facilities, crews and consistency in the tax-credit system, says Vancouver Film Studios president Peter Mitchell.

“A lot of jurisdictions had introduced tax credits systems, and there was a lot of interest in those, and the numbers sounded big, and so they drew a lot of production,” Mitchell says. “A lot of those jurisdictions didn’t turn out to be as advertised … or there was a whole bunch of waiting time. What you have in B.C. is the highest level of certainty in the world. Not the best tax credits … but definitely the best in terms of the turnaround time and the predictability.”

Producers also discovered that many jurisdictions didn’t have adequate studio facilities and talent. People and equipment would have to be brought in, costing more.

Insiders say that after decades in the movie business, B.C. has some attractions that keep drawing filmmakers back, among them being a seasoned, creative talent pool of more than 20,000 film-industry workers.

“I had an executive at Sony tell me recently that we have the best people in the world for action-adventure feature films with a lot of visual effects,” Mitchell says. “Time zone, language, geography, acting pool and proximity to Los Angeles… So as long as it’s close on the financial side, people will come to B.C.

THE TIDE SHIFTS BACK

The crisis of a few years back prompted actor Harvie to seek election as a director of the Union of B.C. Performers and to join those calling for an increase in tax credits.

“I have to say I was one of those people saying, ‘Match Toronto,’” Harvie says, noting Ontario this year cut back its rich tax-credit offerings.

“But as critical as I’ve ever been about the (B.C.) Liberals, in retrospect they were right.”

Vancouver writer-producer Simon Barry launched his B.C.-made sci-fi series Continuum for Canada’s Showcase network in 2012, around the time much of the work from U.S. producers was drying up. He remembers the January 2013 rally well.

“I felt really lucky being in the room, that I had a job and our crew had jobs. The stories that were coming out of that rally were a bit scary,” Barry says.

As Continuum was wrapping up its fourth and final season last month, Barry could tell the production scene had changed.

“Maybe for some of the department heads, they’ve noticed that there are fewer people to choose from,” Barry says. “The locations are a little more challenging because there’s competition — normally there wouldn’t be.

“A lot of the actors are busy, so we’ve been juggling schedules — not our leads, who we have on a contract so they’re exclusive, but some of the actors who come in for work here and there.”

Actor Alvin Sanders, president of the Union of B.C. Performers, agrees times have changed for the UBCP’s 4,600 actors, background performers, stunt performers, voice-over talents and puppeteers.

“A couple of years ago, we were actually keeping a file on the people we’d heard of, who had left town,” Sanders says. “We had a file that we were showing people over in Victoria, to tell them what was happening to the industry. Recently I’ve heard about (actors) who were coming to town — that’s an indication of something.”

‘IT’S A FUNNY BUSINESS

But no one in the film business will ever totally relax.

Makeup and prosthetics specialist Toby Lindala was one of those talking about heading to Toronto when work slowed down a few years ago.

“At the time, there were a lot of productions that were picking up and moving there,” Lindala says, adding his business was down 30 per cent a couple of years ago.

“It was really slowing down and it got a little scary.”

Now, Lindala says, “After all the doom and gloom that was prophesied, it’s been a really big year.”

Actor Paul McGillion, currently on screen in a small role in Tomorrowland, has seen slow cycles before.

“For me, it’s always bounced back,” says McGillion, whose credits include four years as a series regular on Stargate: Atlantis and a recent guest role on Steven Spielberg’s just-wrapped new mystery series The Whispers.

He still drives the 1994 Jeep Cherokee he bought before he did Stargate and is always looking for new work.

“You do your best, the opportunities arise and you seize them as best you can,” he says. “There’s times where it gets slow and that’s when you have to hold your ground.”

McGillion, who describes himself as “just kind of a blue-collar actor,” recently acted in and produced a short film, Mister Richard Francis, for this year’s film festival circuit.

“It’s a funny business,” Lindala says. “Things are safe for now. I know of work that I’ll be doing over the next year or so, and that’s all I know.”

‘WE’RE AT MAXIMUM CAPACITY’

B.C. is back in the movie spotlight — and bigger than ever.

Tomorrowland’s B.C. vistas were the backdrop as the George Clooney fantasy hit theatres last month. The makers of Star Trek 3 are feverishly building sets and props for a three-month shoot starting at the end of June.

The superhero flick Deadpool just wrapped two months of urban mayhem centred on homegrown star Ryan Reynolds.

And Steven Spielberg, Hollywood’s king of big-screen spectacle, finishes three months of filming mid-June on another huge movie, The BFG, based on a Roald Dahl children’s story.

Also expected to start filming by year’s end is the sequel to the steamy audience favourite Fifty Shades of Grey.

All of which has many B.C. industry types predicting the best year ever for film production in the province, even as fiscal 2014-2015 heads for a record.

“2014 was the best year we’ve had, and we’re thinking we’re going to surpass that in 2015,” says Peter Mitchell, president of Vancouver Film Studios for the past 15 years.

“From our perspective, we’re at maximum capacity,” Mitchell says, adding that they are considering building new sound stages to boost their 12-sound-stage capacity.

“We’re very optimistic about the outlook for film and television for the foreseeable future.”

The company has separate divisions that lease filming equipment and communications systems to moviemakers, he says.

“We’re having our best years in those companies as well — that’s kind of a measure of the overall industry.”

Across Burrard Inlet at North Shore Studios, which has eight stages in North Van as well as the Mammoth stage in Burnaby, company president Peter Leitch says they are considering expansions as well.

“We’re projecting that there’s going to be more demand than supply, and that’s a nice position to be in. … We see a pretty good runway ahead of us in terms of opportunities.”

While big movie shoots get the headlines, the industry’s bread and butter is in television series production, with filming schedules that can stretch as long as eight months of the year, and shows that can run for years. The recent rise in digital streaming services means more demand than ever for TV series content.

“There has been an explosion of television production coming from the non-traditional networks — the Netflix, Amazons and Googles of the world,” says VFS head Mitchell. “Netflix ordered 22 original series this year. … It’s just adding to the pool globally.”

VFS plays host to the TV shows Arrow, Flash, Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, Bates Motel and The Returned. They’ll be joined this year by a big Paramount feature Mitchell couldn’t name. Other sources say that feature is Star Trek 3.

Leitch’s North Shore Studios is currently home to the TV shows Falling Skies and iZombie, and was the filming location for several series pilots that are awaiting network green lights for production.

On the feature front, North Shore hosted Fifty Shades of Grey. A sequel is being written in the wake of the first movie’s box-office success. The Mammoth stage in Burnaby is currently said to be hosting Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, though Leitch can’t confirm that. A feature from 20th Century Fox starts building sets on the Mammoth stage later this summer, likely either Vancouver director Neill Blomkamp’s continuation of the Aliens saga, or the third Planet of the Apes movie.

SPECIAL DAYS FOR SPECIAL EFFECTS

Toby Lindala, whose Burnaby-based company Lindala Schminken creates special makeup effects and props (including severed arms and heads and monster tentacles) for clients that include the fantasy series Once Upon a Time and the horror series Supernatural, is working long hours these days. His company is preparing to join a feature that will have some 240 makeup artists working on its busiest days.

“Anybody who is doing prosthetics in town will be working,” Lindala says. “And there will be a bunch of folks up from L.A. to help with that.”

He can’t identify the feature he’ll be working on, but indications are that Vulcan ears will be involved.

Meanwhile, seven artists at Lindala’s Burnaby shop are preparing for summer starts on new seasons of Supernatural and Once Upon a Time. On days when the TV work gets hectic, Lindala will employ as many as 40 people.

American-born actor Brian Markinson makes his home in B.C. and works both sides of the border. His credits include a recent high-profile run on the sixth season of Mad Men and three Woody Allen movies. In B.C. he divides his time between roles on Canadian series and indie features and bigger-budget American fare.

Markinson noted that L.A.-based stars would rather work in Vancouver than in Toronto, where it’s easy to lose a day in travel time due to longer flights and a three-hour time difference.

“The star system will out — these guys have some clout,” Markinson says.

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Uncategorized

B.C.’s film industry: From doom and gloom to major boom

Actor Ellie Harvie is feeling good about this year. She played three guest-star roles recently — a medical examiner and two coroners — and she’s awaiting word on whether her YTV sitcom Some Assembly Required will be coming back for another season.

But a couple of years ago it was another story, as Harvie and other film-industry types watched business flee B.C. in favour of Toronto and various U.S states that were offering bigger financial incentives to film there.

“I thought ‘What the hell is happening?’, like no auditions,” Harvie recalls. “So I went online, looked at Toronto and counted 30 productions. I came back and counted our film list and there were eight.”

In January 2013, film industry workers held a rally at North Shore Studios, demanding that the provincial government help stem the loss of productions to high tax-credit regimes in Ontario, Quebec and the U.S. At the time, Ontario was offering producers tax credits not just on labour but on everything they spent in that province, and many in the industry were saying B.C. should match those terms.

Now, as B.C.’s film industry is busier than ever, the B.C. government ’s refusal to raise tax credits is looking like the right move. For the first 11 months of the fiscal year that ended this past March, movie spending in B.C. totalled $1.8 billion, according to Creative B.C., the provincial agency that deals with the film business. So the 12-month total will easily be B.C.’s best ever.

The year that ended in March 2012, drew $1.335 billion in production spending.

TRAILERS: B.C.’S TOP FOUR MOVIES AT THE BOX OFFICE

Industry sources said U.S. producers who were lured away by high tax credits came back after those credits proved not to be enough to make up for other advantages offered in B.C. A drop in the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar didn’t hurt either.

Compared to other U.S. and Canadian locations, B.C. has more facilities, crews and consistency in the tax-credit system, says Vancouver Film Studios president Peter Mitchell.

“A lot of jurisdictions had introduced tax credits systems, and there was a lot of interest in those, and the numbers sounded big, and so they drew a lot of production,” Mitchell says. “A lot of those jurisdictions didn’t turn out to be as advertised … or there was a whole bunch of waiting time. What you have in B.C. is the highest level of certainty in the world. Not the best tax credits … but definitely the best in terms of the turnaround time and the predictability.”

Producers also discovered that many jurisdictions didn’t have adequate studio facilities and talent. People and equipment would have to be brought in, costing more.

Insiders say that after decades in the movie business, B.C. has some attractions that keep drawing filmmakers back, among them being a seasoned, creative talent pool of more than 20,000 film-industry workers.

“I had an executive at Sony tell me recently that we have the best people in the world for action-adventure feature films with a lot of visual effects,” Mitchell says. “Time zone, language, geography, acting pool and proximity to Los Angeles… So as long as it’s close on the financial side, people will come to B.C.

THE TIDE SHIFTS BACK

The crisis of a few years back prompted actor Harvie to seek election as a director of the Union of B.C. Performers and to join those calling for an increase in tax credits.

“I have to say I was one of those people saying, ‘Match Toronto,’” Harvie says, noting Ontario this year cut back its rich tax-credit offerings.

“But as critical as I’ve ever been about the (B.C.) Liberals, in retrospect they were right.”

Vancouver writer-producer Simon Barry launched his B.C.-made sci-fi series Continuum for Canada’s Showcase network in 2012, around the time much of the work from U.S. producers was drying up. He remembers the January 2013 rally well.

“I felt really lucky being in the room, that I had a job and our crew had jobs. The stories that were coming out of that rally were a bit scary,” Barry says.

As Continuum was wrapping up its fourth and final season last month, Barry could tell the production scene had changed.

“Maybe for some of the department heads, they’ve noticed that there are fewer people to choose from,” Barry says. “The locations are a little more challenging because there’s competition — normally there wouldn’t be.

“A lot of the actors are busy, so we’ve been juggling schedules — not our leads, who we have on a contract so they’re exclusive, but some of the actors who come in for work here and there.”

Actor Alvin Sanders, president of the Union of B.C. Performers, agrees times have changed for the UBCP’s 4,600 actors, background performers, stunt performers, voice-over talents and puppeteers.

“A couple of years ago, we were actually keeping a file on the people we’d heard of, who had left town,” Sanders says. “We had a file that we were showing people over in Victoria, to tell them what was happening to the industry. Recently I’ve heard about (actors) who were coming to town — that’s an indication of something.”

‘IT’S A FUNNY BUSINESS

But no one in the film business will ever totally relax.

Makeup and prosthetics specialist Toby Lindala was one of those talking about heading to Toronto when work slowed down a few years ago.

“At the time, there were a lot of productions that were picking up and moving there,” Lindala says, adding his business was down 30 per cent a couple of years ago.

“It was really slowing down and it got a little scary.”

Now, Lindala says, “After all the doom and gloom that was prophesied, it’s been a really big year.”

Actor Paul McGillion, currently on screen in a small role in Tomorrowland, has seen slow cycles before.

“For me, it’s always bounced back,” says McGillion, whose credits include four years as a series regular on Stargate: Atlantis and a recent guest role on Steven Spielberg’s just-wrapped new mystery series The Whispers.

He still drives the 1994 Jeep Cherokee he bought before he did Stargate and is always looking for new work.

“You do your best, the opportunities arise and you seize them as best you can,” he says. “There’s times where it gets slow and that’s when you have to hold your ground.”

McGillion, who describes himself as “just kind of a blue-collar actor,” recently acted in and produced a short film, Mister Richard Francis, for this year’s film festival circuit.

“It’s a funny business,” Lindala says. “Things are safe for now. I know of work that I’ll be doing over the next year or so, and that’s all I know.”

‘WE’RE AT MAXIMUM CAPACITY’

B.C. is back in the movie spotlight — and bigger than ever.

Tomorrowland’s B.C. vistas were the backdrop as the George Clooney fantasy hit theatres last month. The makers of Star Trek 3 are feverishly building sets and props for a three-month shoot starting at the end of June.

The superhero flick Deadpool just wrapped two months of urban mayhem centred on homegrown star Ryan Reynolds.

And Steven Spielberg, Hollywood’s king of big-screen spectacle, finishes three months of filming mid-June on another huge movie, The BFG, based on a Roald Dahl children’s story.

Also expected to start filming by year’s end is the sequel to the steamy audience favourite Fifty Shades of Grey.

All of which has many B.C. industry types predicting the best year ever for film production in the province, even as fiscal 2014-2015 heads for a record.

“2014 was the best year we’ve had, and we’re thinking we’re going to surpass that in 2015,” says Peter Mitchell, president of Vancouver Film Studios for the past 15 years.

“From our perspective, we’re at maximum capacity,” Mitchell says, adding that they are considering building new sound stages to boost their 12-sound-stage capacity.

“We’re very optimistic about the outlook for film and television for the foreseeable future.”

The company has separate divisions that lease filming equipment and communications systems to moviemakers, he says.

“We’re having our best years in those companies as well — that’s kind of a measure of the overall industry.”

Across Burrard Inlet at North Shore Studios, which has eight stages in North Van as well as the Mammoth stage in Burnaby, company president Peter Leitch says they are considering expansions as well.

“We’re projecting that there’s going to be more demand than supply, and that’s a nice position to be in. … We see a pretty good runway ahead of us in terms of opportunities.”

While big movie shoots get the headlines, the industry’s bread and butter is in television series production, with filming schedules that can stretch as long as eight months of the year, and shows that can run for years. The recent rise in digital streaming services means more demand than ever for TV series content.

“There has been an explosion of television production coming from the non-traditional networks — the Netflix, Amazons and Googles of the world,” says VFS head Mitchell. “Netflix ordered 22 original series this year. … It’s just adding to the pool globally.”

VFS plays host to the TV shows Arrow, Flash, Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, Bates Motel and The Returned. They’ll be joined this year by a big Paramount feature Mitchell couldn’t name. Other sources say that feature is Star Trek 3.

Leitch’s North Shore Studios is currently home to the TV shows Falling Skies and iZombie, and was the filming location for several series pilots that are awaiting network green lights for production.

On the feature front, North Shore hosted Fifty Shades of Grey. A sequel is being written in the wake of the first movie’s box-office success. The Mammoth stage in Burnaby is currently said to be hosting Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, though Leitch can’t confirm that. A feature from 20th Century Fox starts building sets on the Mammoth stage later this summer, likely either Vancouver director Neill Blomkamp’s continuation of the Aliens saga, or the third Planet of the Apes movie.

SPECIAL DAYS FOR SPECIAL EFFECTS

Toby Lindala, whose Burnaby-based company Lindala Schminken creates special makeup effects and props (including severed arms and heads and monster tentacles) for clients that include the fantasy series Once Upon a Time and the horror series Supernatural, is working long hours these days. His company is preparing to join a feature that will have some 240 makeup artists working on its busiest days.

“Anybody who is doing prosthetics in town will be working,” Lindala says. “And there will be a bunch of folks up from L.A. to help with that.”

He can’t identify the feature he’ll be working on, but indications are that Vulcan ears will be involved.

Meanwhile, seven artists at Lindala’s Burnaby shop are preparing for summer starts on new seasons of Supernatural and Once Upon a Time. On days when the TV work gets hectic, Lindala will employ as many as 40 people.

American-born actor Brian Markinson makes his home in B.C. and works both sides of the border. His credits include a recent high-profile run on the sixth season of Mad Men and three Woody Allen movies. In B.C. he divides his time between roles on Canadian series and indie features and bigger-budget American fare.

Markinson noted that L.A.-based stars would rather work in Vancouver than in Toronto, where it’s easy to lose a day in travel time due to longer flights and a three-hour time difference.

“The star system will out — these guys have some clout,” Markinson says.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Uncategorized

B.C.’s film industry: From doom and gloom to major boom

Actor Ellie Harvie is feeling good about this year. She played three guest-star roles recently — a medical examiner and two coroners — and she’s awaiting word on whether her YTV sitcom Some Assembly Required will be coming back for another season.

But a couple of years ago it was another story, as Harvie and other film-industry types watched business flee B.C. in favour of Toronto and various U.S states that were offering bigger financial incentives to film there.

“I thought ‘What the hell is happening?’, like no auditions,” Harvie recalls. “So I went online, looked at Toronto and counted 30 productions. I came back and counted our film list and there were eight.”

In January 2013, film industry workers held a rally at North Shore Studios, demanding that the provincial government help stem the loss of productions to high tax-credit regimes in Ontario, Quebec and the U.S. At the time, Ontario was offering producers tax credits not just on labour but on everything they spent in that province, and many in the industry were saying B.C. should match those terms.

Now, as B.C.’s film industry is busier than ever, the B.C. government ’s refusal to raise tax credits is looking like the right move. For the first 11 months of the fiscal year that ended this past March, movie spending in B.C. totalled $1.8 billion, according to Creative B.C., the provincial agency that deals with the film business. So the 12-month total will easily be B.C.’s best ever.

The year that ended in March 2012, drew $1.335 billion in production spending.

TRAILERS: B.C.’S TOP FOUR MOVIES AT THE BOX OFFICE

Industry sources said U.S. producers who were lured away by high tax credits came back after those credits proved not to be enough to make up for other advantages offered in B.C. A drop in the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar didn’t hurt either.

Compared to other U.S. and Canadian locations, B.C. has more facilities, crews and consistency in the tax-credit system, says Vancouver Film Studios president Peter Mitchell.

“A lot of jurisdictions had introduced tax credits systems, and there was a lot of interest in those, and the numbers sounded big, and so they drew a lot of production,” Mitchell says. “A lot of those jurisdictions didn’t turn out to be as advertised … or there was a whole bunch of waiting time. What you have in B.C. is the highest level of certainty in the world. Not the best tax credits … but definitely the best in terms of the turnaround time and the predictability.”

Producers also discovered that many jurisdictions didn’t have adequate studio facilities and talent. People and equipment would have to be brought in, costing more.

Insiders say that after decades in the movie business, B.C. has some attractions that keep drawing filmmakers back, among them being a seasoned, creative talent pool of more than 20,000 film-industry workers.

“I had an executive at Sony tell me recently that we have the best people in the world for action-adventure feature films with a lot of visual effects,” Mitchell says. “Time zone, language, geography, acting pool and proximity to Los Angeles… So as long as it’s close on the financial side, people will come to B.C.

THE TIDE SHIFTS BACK

The crisis of a few years back prompted actor Harvie to seek election as a director of the Union of B.C. Performers and to join those calling for an increase in tax credits.

“I have to say I was one of those people saying, ‘Match Toronto,’” Harvie says, noting Ontario this year cut back its rich tax-credit offerings.

“But as critical as I’ve ever been about the (B.C.) Liberals, in retrospect they were right.”

Vancouver writer-producer Simon Barry launched his B.C.-made sci-fi series Continuum for Canada’s Showcase network in 2012, around the time much of the work from U.S. producers was drying up. He remembers the January 2013 rally well.

“I felt really lucky being in the room, that I had a job and our crew had jobs. The stories that were coming out of that rally were a bit scary,” Barry says.

As Continuum was wrapping up its fourth and final season last month, Barry could tell the production scene had changed.

“Maybe for some of the department heads, they’ve noticed that there are fewer people to choose from,” Barry says. “The locations are a little more challenging because there’s competition — normally there wouldn’t be.

“A lot of the actors are busy, so we’ve been juggling schedules — not our leads, who we have on a contract so they’re exclusive, but some of the actors who come in for work here and there.”

Actor Alvin Sanders, president of the Union of B.C. Performers, agrees times have changed for the UBCP’s 4,600 actors, background performers, stunt performers, voice-over talents and puppeteers.

“A couple of years ago, we were actually keeping a file on the people we’d heard of, who had left town,” Sanders says. “We had a file that we were showing people over in Victoria, to tell them what was happening to the industry. Recently I’ve heard about (actors) who were coming to town — that’s an indication of something.”

‘IT’S A FUNNY BUSINESS

But no one in the film business will ever totally relax.

Makeup and prosthetics specialist Toby Lindala was one of those talking about heading to Toronto when work slowed down a few years ago.

“At the time, there were a lot of productions that were picking up and moving there,” Lindala says, adding his business was down 30 per cent a couple of years ago.

“It was really slowing down and it got a little scary.”

Now, Lindala says, “After all the doom and gloom that was prophesied, it’s been a really big year.”

Actor Paul McGillion, currently on screen in a small role in Tomorrowland, has seen slow cycles before.

“For me, it’s always bounced back,” says McGillion, whose credits include four years as a series regular on Stargate: Atlantis and a recent guest role on Steven Spielberg’s just-wrapped new mystery series The Whispers.

He still drives the 1994 Jeep Cherokee he bought before he did Stargate and is always looking for new work.

“You do your best, the opportunities arise and you seize them as best you can,” he says. “There’s times where it gets slow and that’s when you have to hold your ground.”

McGillion, who describes himself as “just kind of a blue-collar actor,” recently acted in and produced a short film, Mister Richard Francis, for this year’s film festival circuit.

“It’s a funny business,” Lindala says. “Things are safe for now. I know of work that I’ll be doing over the next year or so, and that’s all I know.”

‘WE’RE AT MAXIMUM CAPACITY’

B.C. is back in the movie spotlight — and bigger than ever.

Tomorrowland’s B.C. vistas were the backdrop as the George Clooney fantasy hit theatres last month. The makers of Star Trek 3 are feverishly building sets and props for a three-month shoot starting at the end of June.

The superhero flick Deadpool just wrapped two months of urban mayhem centred on homegrown star Ryan Reynolds.

And Steven Spielberg, Hollywood’s king of big-screen spectacle, finishes three months of filming mid-June on another huge movie, The BFG, based on a Roald Dahl children’s story.

Also expected to start filming by year’s end is the sequel to the steamy audience favourite Fifty Shades of Grey.

All of which has many B.C. industry types predicting the best year ever for film production in the province, even as fiscal 2014-2015 heads for a record.

“2014 was the best year we’ve had, and we’re thinking we’re going to surpass that in 2015,” says Peter Mitchell, president of Vancouver Film Studios for the past 15 years.

“From our perspective, we’re at maximum capacity,” Mitchell says, adding that they are considering building new sound stages to boost their 12-sound-stage capacity.

“We’re very optimistic about the outlook for film and television for the foreseeable future.”

The company has separate divisions that lease filming equipment and communications systems to moviemakers, he says.

“We’re having our best years in those companies as well — that’s kind of a measure of the overall industry.”

Across Burrard Inlet at North Shore Studios, which has eight stages in North Van as well as the Mammoth stage in Burnaby, company president Peter Leitch says they are considering expansions as well.

“We’re projecting that there’s going to be more demand than supply, and that’s a nice position to be in. … We see a pretty good runway ahead of us in terms of opportunities.”

While big movie shoots get the headlines, the industry’s bread and butter is in television series production, with filming schedules that can stretch as long as eight months of the year, and shows that can run for years. The recent rise in digital streaming services means more demand than ever for TV series content.

“There has been an explosion of television production coming from the non-traditional networks — the Netflix, Amazons and Googles of the world,” says VFS head Mitchell. “Netflix ordered 22 original series this year. … It’s just adding to the pool globally.”

VFS plays host to the TV shows Arrow, Flash, Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, Bates Motel and The Returned. They’ll be joined this year by a big Paramount feature Mitchell couldn’t name. Other sources say that feature is Star Trek 3.

Leitch’s North Shore Studios is currently home to the TV shows Falling Skies and iZombie, and was the filming location for several series pilots that are awaiting network green lights for production.

On the feature front, North Shore hosted Fifty Shades of Grey. A sequel is being written in the wake of the first movie’s box-office success. The Mammoth stage in Burnaby is currently said to be hosting Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, though Leitch can’t confirm that. A feature from 20th Century Fox starts building sets on the Mammoth stage later this summer, likely either Vancouver director Neill Blomkamp’s continuation of the Aliens saga, or the third Planet of the Apes movie.

SPECIAL DAYS FOR SPECIAL EFFECTS

Toby Lindala, whose Burnaby-based company Lindala Schminken creates special makeup effects and props (including severed arms and heads and monster tentacles) for clients that include the fantasy series Once Upon a Time and the horror series Supernatural, is working long hours these days. His company is preparing to join a feature that will have some 240 makeup artists working on its busiest days.

“Anybody who is doing prosthetics in town will be working,” Lindala says. “And there will be a bunch of folks up from L.A. to help with that.”

He can’t identify the feature he’ll be working on, but indications are that Vulcan ears will be involved.

Meanwhile, seven artists at Lindala’s Burnaby shop are preparing for summer starts on new seasons of Supernatural and Once Upon a Time. On days when the TV work gets hectic, Lindala will employ as many as 40 people.

American-born actor Brian Markinson makes his home in B.C. and works both sides of the border. His credits include a recent high-profile run on the sixth season of Mad Men and three Woody Allen movies. In B.C. he divides his time between roles on Canadian series and indie features and bigger-budget American fare.

Markinson noted that L.A.-based stars would rather work in Vancouver than in Toronto, where it’s easy to lose a day in travel time due to longer flights and a three-hour time difference.

“The star system will out — these guys have some clout,” Markinson says.

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