Lights, Camera, Squamish Action!

This article originally appeared in The Squamish Chief, January, 29, 2015.  Written by: Jennifer Thuncher/ jthuncher@squamishchief.com.

Howe Sound. Photo by Malcom Carter

Howe Sound. Photo by Malcom Carter

The film industry is shining a spotlight on Squamish. 

Last year, Squamish made it onto screens in 25 productions equalling a total of 125 production days (shooting days) in the district – about a 20 per cent increase over 2013, according to Devon Guest, film and events manager for the district.

The industry brought $1.25 million into the district in 2014, she said.

The number of productions stayed stable year over year from 2013 to 2014. There is less disruption to the community with a stable number of productions in town for more days, Guest told the corporate policy and governance standing committee on Jan. 20.

 Squamish saw a peak in 2012 with the filming of Twilight and other major motion pictures adding up to about 227 production days in the community, but that was an anomaly, according to Guest.

“That is not what the filming landscape in Squamish is going to look like going forward,” Guest said.

Guest pointed out that some major motion pictures, such as The Interview which, though its star and creator Seth Rogan touted it as being shot in Squamish, never actually shot within the boundaries of the district.

“[Squamish’s role] is going to be about attracting the made-for-TV movies, the series that are appearing on cable networks,” said Guest, citing The Returned as an example of a TV series featuring Squamish.

Of the productions that came to town last year, four of them shot downtown for 14 days out of the total 125.

The downtown’s busiest street, Cleveland Avenue, saw the most action with eight days of shooting. Second Avenue saw seven days of shooting, the second highest total days of downtown filming.

Squamish falls outside the Lower Mainland film hub, so a Canadian production that chooses to come to Squamish receives an area-based labour tax incentive of six per cent on top of provincial and federal incentives that productions shot in the Lower Mainland receive. 

“Squamish is attractive to a lot of production houses with low to medium budgets because they get the extra tax incentive, while being able to drive back and forth. It is just as close to drive to Squamish as it is to drive to Burnaby, with traffic,” Guest said.

The robustness of the film industry in B.C. and the weakening Canadian dollar also contributes to the attraction of Squamish, and of the province at large, she said. 

Ultimately Guest said choosing Squamish as a backdrop is about more than the money saved.

“Productions come to Squamish, not because it is inexpensive, but because it creatively fits with their script,” she said.

Councillor Susan Chapelle said she is concerned about the environmental impact of productions. 

Guest said that events and filming in general generate waste, but that the industry is improving. 

“There is room for conversation in the industry for greening policy, and that is definitely something you will see in the business plan strategy over five years,” she said.

Chapelle also said that she gets a bit irritated when productions come into town with American actors and don’t use Squamish services.

“I am wondering what the benefit is to Squamish,” Chapelle asked.

“It is not local catering. On occasion they use local hotels… but most everything is brought into our district,” she said. 

Guest said that there are many local residents involved in the film industry to whom she can refer production companies. Guest also noted money does come to local businesses. For a Hallmark production five-day shoot for a made-for-TV movie, for example, $28,500 was spent on parking and location fees and business compensations, Guest said.

For that shoot the district only earned a few hundred dollars in fees, but the local businesses that were featured in the film, and owners of lots rented out for parking saw the benefit. 

Hotels also earned income from crew members who stayed in Squamish.

“We aren’t receiving those dollars, obviously, but members of our community are,” Guest said.