Why Hollywood Loves Canada: 4 Cities Offering Big Filming Incentives

6:30 AM 9/13/2016

by Etan Vlessing

From rural Quebec standing in for West Virginia to Manitoba cheating for small-town Texas, versatile locations and tax breaks are luring L.A. producers north in record numbers.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (right) filming 'Why We’re Killing Gunther in Vancouver'.
Arnold Schwarzenegger (right) filming 'Why We’re Killing Gunther in Vancouver'.
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SNL alum Taran Killam was worried: He needed Vancouver to double as Miami for his comedy Why We’re Killing Gunther. “Our script is quite international, so we were worried about finding looks that wouldn’t read Pacific Northwest,” says Killam, who also is starring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cobie Smulders. “The Surrey Operations Centre building is this beau­tiful, brand­-new, blue-­glass building that we were able to double for Miami, and it ended up being one of my favorite locations of the entire shoot.”

Killam and other Canadian production players see the collapse of their dollar against the American greenback and generous tax breaks as helping draw Hollywood projects north for the convenience of filming amid a diverse array of streetscapes and landscapes. According to the Association of Provincial Funding Agencies, the total volume of foreign location and service production in Canada in 2015 jumped 42.4 per­cent to $2.6 billion, way up from the $1.9 billion in 2010. THR takes a look at how Hollywood North is making movie magic.

  • Manitoba

    Locations: Winnipeg, Selkirk

    USED IN A Very Sordid Wedding, writer-director Del Shores' sequel to his 2000 comedy Sordid Lives, with Whoopi Goldberg and Bonnie Bedelia.

    BIGGEST INCENTIVES 45 percent, labor-based Manitoba film and video production tax credit.

    SET REPORT "What I found and is so thrilling in Selkirk is, it was very reflective of the flat and small Texas town feel," says Shores. "The downtown area, which has our beauty shop and our bar, had that street that you see in every Texas town, where there's no parallel parking; there's that other kind of parking. And there's big, wide streets. Except for the signage, which we had to avoid a little of, it just reeked small-town or rural Texas."

  • Ontario

    Location: University of Toronto

    USED IN Sony's Flatliners, the remake of the 1990 sci-fi thriller that stars Ellen Page, Diego Luna and Nina Dobrev.

    BIGGEST INCENTIVES 21.5 percent all-spend Ontario production services tax credit; Ontario computer animation and special effects tax credit.

    SET REPORT "We were scouting on the University of Toronto campus, around King's College Circle, and between two of the buildings is a sky bridge that connects an older building to a much newer building," says producer Michael Bederman. "We snapped a photo of it and the buildings on either side of it, and creatively that was the spark for the movie and solidified a lot of themes for us, of what we were trying to create — this marriage of old medicine and this new research-driven medicine that leads to flatlining."

  • British Columbia

    Locations: Fisherman's Wharf, False Creek

    USED IN Ian Pfaff's The Ninth Passenger, a thriller set on a yacht that stars Jesse Metcalfe, Alexia Fast and Tom Maden.

    BIGGEST INCENTIVES 28 percent labor-based production services tax credit.

    SET REPORT "The location is right in the city and gives views of the skyline and the skyscrapers of a nice marina, from where the movie starts," says location manager David Angelski. "That allowed us to do a lot of the scenes on the boat from the dock and not on the open water, which is more difficult. And for the scenes inside the boat, we blacked out the outside, so the scenes could be anywhere."

  • Quebec

    Location: Rougemont Valley

    USED IN Destin Daniel Cretton's The Glass Castle, with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson starring in Lionsgate's adaptation of Jeannette Walls' memoir about growing up in a dysfunctional family of nomads.

    BIGGEST INCENTIVES 20 percent all-spend Quebec production services tax credit, plus 16 percent bonus on labor for green-screen shooting, VFX and animation.

    SET REPORT "The small town of Wells in West Virginia [where the story is set] is mountainous, and Montreal's surroundings are rather flat," says location manager Michele St. Arnaud. "But we found mountains [in Rougemont Valley] where there's a sugar shack hidden in the forest. We covered it on three sides and made it our exterior shack and built the interior on a stage. The setting was perfect. We needed a bar, a grocery store and a funeral home, and we found the right town just 30 minutes outside of Montreal."