Film Camp at UBC: Welcome to “Hollywood North”

By Phill Powell

It’s called “Hollywood North,” better known as Vancouver. This quaint northwestern city sits on the western coast of Canada in the province of British Columbia. Ranking behind New York and Los Angeles as the third-largest center for the film industry, Vancouver is home to movies like Twilight: New Moon and the ABC television series, Once Upon a Time.

The unique concept of Once Upon a Time (fairy-tale characters mysteriously transported to a modern Maine seaside village) has made the show a massive hit with viewers tuning in weekly to see what the residents of Storybrooke are up to.

Once Upon a Time is just one of many hit shows filmed in “Hollywood North.” (Credit: ABC/Jack Rowand)

Where is Storybrooke…Really?
The actual location of Storybrooke is a whole continent away, and it borders the Pacific Ocean, not the Atlantic. The show is filmed in two small towns (Steveston, Fort Langley) right outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The show is hot, and so is Vancouver, which has become a thriving TV and film production center. The motion picture industry injects $1.2 billion dollars into Vancouver’s local economy and at any given time the city plays host to several movie productions. For Canadians, or anyone looking to find a place away from Hollywood to make movies, this is it.

Other television series being shot in Vancouver include The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, Arrow and Fringe. And that’s not even taking into account the many successful shows that finished their run recently or within the last few years (like House, M.D., Smallville and Stargate Atlantis)…or older TV classics like The X-Files, The Commish and MacGyver.

A New Film Capital?
Vancouver has always been a prime location for shooting films and TV shows. In fact, some of the early films shot by Thomas Edison’s company were produced there, more than a century ago. More recently, these big-budget movies were shot in Vancouver:

Fantastic Four (2005)
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Watchmen (2009)
Night at the Museum (2006)
Tron: Legacy (2010)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
Final Destination 5 (2011)
Juno (2007)
Blade: Trinity (2004)

Vancouver is constantly ranked as one of North America’s most beautiful cities and offers plenty of scenery that looks great on film.

Vancouver is a “chameleon” city that can be used to create the look of many other places. For example, when they were making Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the producers needed a versatile location. No problem. Vancouver was able to “double” as Seattle in a few scenes. It also stood in for India in other shots, as well the dessert terrain associated with the United Arab Emirates.

UBC Meets DMA
The same amazing natural beauty is found throughout the area, including on the attractive campus of Vancouver’s premier institution of higher learning—the University of British Columbia.

Digital Media Academy has held summer camps at UBC for this very reason. Well, that and to offer creative young people from the U.S. and Canada a chance to get great cutting-edge courses related to digital media—including game design, programming, animation, music production, Web design and more.

At UBC campers who want to explore digital filmmaking are given several choices. For those just starting out, the Digital Filmmaking for Teens – Beginner camp is a perfect selection, with students getting hands-on experience with professional Canon camera and top editing software like Final Cut Pro. And for the ultimate film camp experience, DMA offers its Academy for Digital Filmmaking camp, a comprehensive two-week experience that takes you deep into film production.

Who knows? Maybe this summer’s film students at DMA’s UBC tech camps will return to Vancouver someday—as well-paid members of a film or television production crew.