“Get the hell outta Cloverdale, we’re trying to get in there, too!”
– Overheard recently on 56A Avenue, where a roving location scout was joking with a crew member of another production filming scenes on 56A Ave.
With crews nearly tripping over one another as the low Canadian dollar and tax credits lure American film and TV productions to Hollywood North, Surrey is finding itself in the middle of the busiest filming seasons anyone can remember.
And historic Cloverdale is at the centre of the action, hosting a half-dozen TV series and TV productions so far in 2016, and set to welcome a major Hollywood action-comedy this week, Why We’re Killing Gunther, starring none other than former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vancouver’s own Cobie Smulders (Avengers, HIMYM).
Written and directed by SNL alum Taran Killam, the shot-in-B.C. production is here this week to film interior and outdoor scenes featuring explosions, gunfire and a car stunt along 176 Street, also known as Anywhere, U.S.A., with the heritage-rich business district standing in for a plethora of small town locales, as it did in its heyday as Home of Smallville, so-dubbed when Cloverdale was a filming location for the popular sci-fi series about the origins of Superman (2001-2011).
It’s an association that continues to pay off for the business district, with cheerful young fans as recently as three weeks ago making the trek from Oklahoma to Cloverdale, posing proudly in S-emblazoned T-shirts at the former Clova Cinema in the 5700-block, an image tweeted immediately by the Cloverdale BIA.
— Paul Orazietti (@Paradeguy) July 27, 2016
James Monk from the city’s filming and events department confirms it’s been a very busy year for filming in Surrey.
When he spoke to The Reporter recently, July looked to be on track to be another record-breaking month in a record-setting year.
By July (YTD), Surrey had issued 103 film permits – topping last year’s total of 97 film permits issued and the 82 film permits issued in 2014.
“So, we’ve already done what we did in 2015,” he said. “The growth is huge.”
Between June 2015 and June 2016, the city saw a 250 per cent increase in the number of film days – a dramatic rise.
Monk’s office works directly with productions seeking to work in Surrey, acting as a one-stop shop for obtaining film permits, and any other permits that may be required for a production, from electrical permits to traffic obstruction notices – even hydrant permits, handy for rain machines, as was the case for a recent City Hall plaza shoot.
“I work behind the scenes to get them the necessary permits,” says Monk. “I can usually expedite the process fairly quickly.”
In most cases, the city welcomes productions with open arms, in touch for constant communications, with the calls coming fast and furious in 2016.
Inquiries range from suitable filming locations – rolling hills with grass that had to be dead was a recent request – to personalized, mini-tours on the ground.
One production needed somewhere to function as spaceship tunnels. A solution was found in one of Surrey’s civic facilities – Monk isn’t saying which.
Filming hot spots include Surrey City Hall and City Centre Library, both with modern, award-winning architecture.
They’re the subject of “almost weekly inquiries,” he reveals.
Cloverdale is another draw. “If productions are interested in that look and feel, they love to film there,” he says. “It’s a beautiful location and definitely popular.”
Most productions the city hosts are TV series and movies-of-the-week, followed by commercials, with Walmart, New Balance, Febreeze, Infinity, Fountain Tire, Mercedes and BCAA being some recent examples.
Big budget films interested in Surrey are much less common. But the payoff can be considerable, Monk notes, citing reports that the film Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds spent $40 million shooting in B.C., breaking down into hundreds of thousands spent on hotels, catering, car rentals and other expenses – translating into a local economic boom for Vancouver.
“As a municipality, we work really hard so that we are attracting productions to film here in the City of Surrey.”
The arrival of Why We’re Killing Gunther is good news for the historic town centre, where first-time director/writer Killam (also acting in the film) has been spotted doing advance visits.
“We’ve lost track of how many times they’ve gone there,” Monk said. “They’ve eaten at a number of restaurants. They’ve told me they’ve been at the restaurants a few times. Those are all good things.”
Mohit Anand, left, is a film and TV actor currently appearing as a Surrey Re-Enactor this summer.
He had some work in July filming scenes for TV’s Rogue Season 4, and is trying for as many spots as he can.
He says the low Canadian dollar is a draw for U.S. productions, “But [it’s] also because Vancouver has a really good infrastructure in place and now Americans are realizing, hmmm, there’s talent up here. This is a huge infrastructure we can use.”
He thinks the boom will last another couple of years at least.
“It cycles. Right now, I’m at a point where I’m trying to ride that wave,” he said. “As much work as I can do, I’m making myself available, because that’s what you’ve got to do.”