Film industry pumps millions of dollars into Richmond

Commercial filming activity took place three out of every four days in Richmond last year

The province’s film sector continues to enjoy strong growth and is pumping millions of dollars annually into Richmond’s economy, according to a panel of industry heavyweights.

At last week’s panel discussion, Big Screen, Big Impact, industry leaders including Kathy Gilroy, producer of TV series Once Upon a Time, which was primarily shot in Richmond, spoke to a sold-out audience at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

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All the speakers indicated that Richmond enjoyed successive record-breaking years for filming activity in 2015 and 2016 and that the strong growth in the B.C. film industry is showing no signs of slowing down.

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"The Big Screen, Big Impact" panel discussion took place at the Richmond Olympic Oval last week, where industry leaders indicated a strong growth in film industry in B.C. and Richmond. Photo submitted

In 2016, $26 million in film-related wages were paid to Richmond residents and $500,000 in fees and charges were collected by the city.

And commercial filming activity took place three out of every four days in Richmond, according to the city.

Two brand new series, The Crossing and Siren, which are set to air in 2018, have been regularly filmed on locations in Richmond this year. Film crews for recent movie blockbusters such as Deadpool and Battle for the Planet of the Apes also spent significant time filming on location in Richmond.

“Steveston and the airport area are the most popular filming spots in Richmond,” said Gregory Astop, location manager of The Crossing, much of which was filmed in Steveston.

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Film crews for recent movie blockbusters such as Deadpool (above) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes spent significant time filming in Richmond. Two brand new series, The Crossing and Siren, which are set to air in 2018, have also been regularly filmed in Richmond this year. File photo

The Crossing lends itself to a Pacific North West coastal town in Oregon,” said Astop.

“The fishing village, historical fishing walls, net sheds, along with a combination of small towns, local businesses and cute houses in Steveston, all made it perfect for the film makers.”

Astop added that Richmond has won street cred among many U.S. production teams since some landscapes “look very much like the suburban United States from the 1980s to 2000s.

“And it’s easy to get to even the deepest part of Richmond, which is a big benefit for filming here. Time is important for everyone.”

He explained that, when a production team decides to shoot in an area, it will bring a significant economic benefit to the community.

“We pay the city permit fees and charges for access to parking areas,” said Astop.

“We also give compensation to business owners and individual home owners when we film at their spot. 

“And, I may have 50 crew members going to Pajos every day for lunch, and construction crew members shopping for wood or costume clothes close to the film set.”

The city said that more than 1,840 Richmond residents are directly employed by the film industry, including Eric Zhang, director and producer for the October Studio at 2088 No 5 Rd, Richmond.

“Most of the production teams are from the United States,” said Zhang.

“It costs less to film here than in the U.S., which is an important factor.

“Also, an availability of local skilled and experienced film crews and locations, that are able to present a wide variety of looks, contributes to its popularity.”

Zhang said the local film industry had a hard time around 2013 but rebounded in 2015, when more production teams from Hollywood came, reaching a peak in 2016.

A film treaty signed by the Canadian and Chinese governments last summer may attract more Chinese filmmakers to come to B.C. and add to the boom in the film industry in Richmond, added Zhang.

“I know many Chinese filmmakers who were interested in filming here last year, but didn’t make it due to strict foreign exchange controls by Chinese government.

“They are waiting to see if any changes will be made on the policy level. I expect to see many more Chinese film-makers come to B.C. and Richmond next year or the year after.”

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