Squamish is picture perfect

The Man in the High Castle, Virgin River, The Twilight Zone, and Amazing Race Canada among productions in town in 2018

Filming in Squamish saw a slight downturn in 2018 compared to previous years, but that's not bad news, according to the District of Squamish.

"2017 was an extremely busy year, with filming up a substantial amount over 2016," said Devon Guest, arts and culture manager for the District.

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"2018, we didn't see those same numbers, and that's okay. 2018 saw us come down to a more reasonable level of filming in our community."

A level that translates into a more sustainable pace, says Guest, adding that the latest numbers won't be available until April.

"Filming needs to work for both the community and for the production. We're always looking at ways to improve that experience for both sides."

Productions that Squamish hosted in 2018 included The Man in the High Castle, Virgin River, and The Twilight Zone, with a highlight, for Guest, being Amazing Race Canada.

"It wasn't playing Squamish as a different location, pretending to be Alaska or Washington. It was a network show that featured Squamish and highlighted it," said Guest.

This year also saw the usual movies of the week and car commercials filming scenes on Paradise Valley Road and downtown.

"No two filming seasons are the same," said Guest. "It's easy to anticipate those two categories of productions in town. It's when we see the major motion pictures with the higher budgets, the larger crews, the larger impacts. Those are harder to anticipate."

Squamish's unusual beauty will always be a draw for productions, says production coordinator Byron Fudge, even with the extra cost of transporting crews to the area.

"At some point or another, Squamish is always used," said Fudge, who says that almost every production he's worked on has used the area for shooting locations.

"Squamish just holds something that every production needs at some point, whether it's an exterior or whether it's a woods shot, mountain shot, something like that, at some point almost everyone shoots in Squamish."

Locations such as Britannia, the base of the Stawamus Chief, and the Sea to Sky Gondola are popular filming spots, he said.

"The [gondola] at Grouse Mountain, you're not going to get the same views or the same aspect of everything, but the one that they put in in Squamish is just beautiful."

Additionally, Squamish is simply friendlier to filming productions, he says.

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Dolly grip Chris Bayko keeps an eye on an 18,000-wattlight during a film shoot on Cleveland Avenue for a murder mystery TV series for the Hallmark Channel. - File photo/David Buzzard

"Vancouver is overused and a lot of people are upset about the traffic that we cause, the delays in certain areas, sometimes the distraction that happens," said Fudge. "In Squamish, it's an untapped resource, even as much as we can use it, it's only in small bits, so they're not sullied by the film industry yet. I think they like having us out there."

Kelly Stangowitz, the owner of Chef Big D's, which was used this year as a location for Christmas movie The Christmas Pact, says having her establishment used as a location was only a plus.

"I find the film companies are super organized. If they need something, they ask, otherwise they do their thing," said Stangowitz. "It doesn't affect us at all. We didn't lose any business that day. We were closed, but they compensate you, and people are pretty forgiving when your business is closed due to filming."

"I'm thrilled when the film companies are in town, I think it's an amazing thing for the town."

Cory Balano, part-owner of The Joinery, Cloudburst Café, and Locavore Food Truck, agrees: "I like dealing with film people, you just have to understand that they never know their schedule, so when you're dealing with them you have to be prepared to change things last minute."

The District doesn't currently have a strategy to draw more filming to the region, says Guest, and there are mitigating plans in the works to deal with increasing numbers of crews in a denser town centre.

"It's hard to find the amount of space that they need," said Guest. "As the availability of space in Squamish becomes harder to get, parking for crews becomes more difficult, and we'll need to look at ways of pushing them out further to the periphery, and how to best service that so that it doesn't impact residents ... that's a great opportunity for locals who have access to that land, as well as satisfying film crews because it takes them off of our roads."

 

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