Vancouver has long been the third largest centre in North America for film and television production, coming right behind Los Angeles and New York City, and a new ranking takes note on why that may be so.
According to MovieMaker, an American magazine on the filmmaking industry, Vancouver and New York City are tied for first place in their ranking of the best big cities in North America to live and work as a moviemaker in 2017. The global production hub of Los Angeles ranks just behind at third place.
While British Columbia’s strong and longtime film and television production industry are buoyed by competitive tax credits, specifically a base refundable 28% credit and the potential for an additional 6% credit depending on the region and 16% credit for digital animation or visual effects, there are many other factors than simply what makes the bean counters in Hollywood happy.
Other criteria factored in by the magazine includes film production in 2016 (shooting days, number of productions, dollars generated), film community and culture (film schools, festivals, independent theatres, film organizations), access to equipment and facilities, cost of living, lifestyle, weather, transportation and other socio-cultural markers.
Vancouver is noted by the magazine to have a well-developed industry, with both the facilities and talent needed to complete the biggest blockbusters. And this ecosystem has even spurred industry-leading innovations.
Early last year, locally-based Aircover Inflatables won a technical Oscar Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for developing an inflatable green screen that is much more flexible and cost-efficient than conventional green screen structures held by up metal scaffolding.
Moviemaker also highlights that Vancouver has 16 local schools that offer filmmaking programs, including UBC, Vancouver Film School, and BCIT, and a strong film culture cemented by several major film festivals namely the Vancouver International Film Festival, Whistler Film Festival, and the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
And with a mild climate and a diverse urban landscape and geography, all located less than a three hour flight away from Los Angeles, Moviemaker ponders over whether Vancouver is “Hollywood’s dirty little secret” or “a moviemaking paradise”. It has a seamless ability to double for many American cities on screen.
In recent years, Vancouver has been the filming location for big budget movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Power Rangers, War For the Planet of the Apes, Star Trek Beyond, Tomorrowland, Deadpool, and Fifty Shades of Grey. The city is also the production site for a number of television series, including CBS’ Zoo, Netflix’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events, ABC’s Once Upon A Time, and various DC-comics based CW shows – Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and Supernatural.
Comparatively, Toronto comes in at seventh place in MovieMaker’s ranking as it has some of the same qualities that Vancouver is known for. Montreal is further down the list at eleventh.
“Like Vancouver, Toronto doubles as New York in so many movies that you’ll feel like you’re living in the Big Apple in many of its 140-plus neighborhoods,” reads the description for the city.
Ontario’s international filmmaking industry has made some headway over the past decade and a half, spurred largely by the provincial government’s increasingly competitive tax credits – now reaching 35%. Up until October 2016, British Columbia’s credit was 33%, before it was lowered to 28%.
Film and television production businesses, including the opening of new major film studios, have popped up in Toronto as a result of the production demand spurred by tax credits. Other than a film and television industry that supports Canadian productions, Toronto did not have much of the capacity nor talent needed to handle multiple major international productions until recently.
But Toronto wants to compete with Vancouver head on. Next week, Toronto Mayor John Tory will be joining a delegation of two dozen Toronto companies and organizations for a Los Angeles business mission to encourage LA-based production companies to invest in Canada’s largest city.
Productions are estimated to have spent approximately $2 billion in Metro Vancouver in 2016, more than twice of the estimated $800 million spent in Toronto during the same period, but the gap is narrowing. The industry employs tens of thousands of people in each city.
Here are MovieMaker’s complete 2017 rankings for the best cities to live and work as a moviemaker:
1=. Vancouver, BC
1=. New York, New York
3. Los Angeles, California
4. Atlanta, Georgia
5. Chicago, Illinois
6. Austin, Texas
7. Toronto, Ontario
8. Albuquerque, New Mexico
9. Boston, Massachusetts
10. Memphis, Tennessee
11. Montreal, Quebec
12. Portland, Oregon
13. Dallas, Texas
14. Houston, Texas
15. San Diego, California
1. Savannah, Georgia
2. Santa Fe, New Mexico
3. Providence, Rhode Island
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
5. Richmond, Virginia