There are a few key ingredients to the hustle and bustle of Hollywood North’s robust economy. At the top of the list are financial tangibles like Provincial tax benefits and the low Canadian dollar.
Also on the radar is production value from filming locations and studios across beautiful British Columbia as well as the proximity to Hollywood for logistics. But there is an unsung hero and backbone to the local film and television industry: the skilled labour force.
Blockbuster films and hit television series are being filmed in Vancouver on the regular. The recent influx of streaming original content has also brought in productions for Amazon, Netflix, CraveTV and Hulu. So, there is a fair share of opportunities for working actors and Canadian stars.
It’s not uncommon to recognize Canadians in lead role productions filmed in Vancouver like Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool. That production pumped over $40 million into the provincial economy including $19 million in wages to over 2,000 local cast, crew and extras. When it comes to production staff, the crew and post-production workers, most of that work is locally sourced amongst a pool of skilled labour.
This summer’s space odyssey Star Trek Beyond is said to have pumped $69 million into the provincial economy. 40% of that warp speed cash trickled into supporting industries outside of Hollywood entertainment like transportation, hospitality, lumber, hardware etc. The production spent $40 million in wages on almost 4,000 employees.
We got the inside scoop on the local film and television industry from stunt performer Jason Bell who plays Captain Kirk’s top security guard in this summer’s Star Trek Beyond:
What was it like to play the right-hand man and first security officer of the iconic Captain Kirk in Star Trek Beyond?
The best word I can use to describe the experience is surreal. When I initially got the call to work on STAR TREK BEYOND I was taken aback. When I was told I was cast as Captain Kirk’s #1 security guard, I had this massive smile from ear to ear. First day on set was exactly how I imagined it would be. The blinking lights, the captain’s chair, the cast in the iconic uniforms and me in the middle of it all. It was one of the most fun and humbling experiences of my career.
What are some of your favourite Vancouver productions you’ve been part of?
Vancouver is full of amazing productions and crews, but I feel most at home with The CW’s “Arrow”, “The Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow“. I’ve been fortunate to work on these shows on a regular basis and double some amazing characters. I always have a blast being in the DC universe.
What kind of opportunities are you finding in a robust local film industry?
Productions are aching for not just crew but for stunt players and day actors to fill roles. Sometimes I find I have to ask to be released on one production because another production wants me on a longer contract. Right now is the time for new people to get their start in the industry and for veterans to work as much as they want. It’s quite busy.
Does being a stunt performer share any parallels to your time in active combat in the Army?
Oddly enough there have been quite a few times where it’s carried over. Half of the time, when playing a bad guy or a soldier, you’re given an assault rifle or pistol. I trained with a varied set of weapons during my time in the military, so I definitely became familiar and comfortable with them and knew how to respect and handle them. When I worked on GODZILLA, I was part of a small squad of soldiers and the guys knew I had previous experience and would sometimes ask how to move as a squad and what tactics were typical for certain situations.
Advice for aspiring stunt performers?
Having previous martial arts or gymnastics experience can be a huge advantage, but if you don’t have much experience, start honing new skills right away. Take a kickboxing class, learn some basic tumbling and start training where local stunt performers train, meet them and ask a million questions. When you think you’re ready, start putting a resume together with your attributes and send them out to every production in town. Persistence is the key here because there are many people trying to get into the business, but those who are patient and put the work in will make it. Lastly, be real with everyone and never accept a job you don’t think you’re capable of. It’s a tough business but totally worth it in the end.
Jason Bell photo credit: Dan Rizzuto
By Amar Mirchandani @amarmirch