Leadership Series

October 31, 2017 7:00 am

Leadership Series: Laying the foundations of the B.C. film industry

Crews transform downtown Vancouver into a Hong Kong street scene for the action-blockbuster 'Skyscraper.'

Simon Little / CKNW
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Leaders in the film industry aren’t just the high powered directors or A-list actors that you read about in magazines, these are people who are changing the industry or fighting to keep it alive.

Currently, the Vancouver Film industry is doing well, hosting big-name productions like the Dwayne Johnson feature film Skyscraper, along with popular TV franchises like Riverdale and The X-Files that are keeping B.C. film workers busy.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

LISTEN: Leadership Series: Laying the foundations of the B.C. film industry



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Remember about five years ago when the film industry went through a slump?

That’s when production manager Wayne Bennett spearheaded the #SaveBCFilm Campaign.

“At the time, things were incredible in this town, people weren’t working, and I was one of them,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C. film production to top $2.6B in 2017, setting new record

“The government at the time was basically saying that the film industry didn’t need to be part of the overall jobs plan and that they were just basically going to let the industry die as it was in Vancouver.”

Crews rig up a pursuit camera car on the set of Deadpool 2.

Simon Little / CKNW

Then the Motion Picture Industry Association and the unions began to lobby the government.

“But we needed a grassroots campaign about the people that actually work on the ground in the industry, and that was us,” said Bennett.

“We kind of all banded together and it was all more about the education for the public and the government as to what this industry actually brings to the province of British Columbia.”

READ MORE: ‘The real star of the film is Hope’: B.C. community celebrates Rambo’s 35th anniversary

Since 2012-2013, film production has boomed, Bennett said, due to a variety of reasons — including the low Canadian Dollar and the stability of the federal and labour incentives to the industry.

Writer, producer and actor Nikki Wallin says she wants to see a greater role for women in B.C.’s film industry.

Supplied

Industry leaders like Bennett helped open the door for up and comers, like Nikki Wallin.

When CKNW caught up with Wallin, she was at a fundraising launch party for her new film Rebuild, a production she’s writing, producing and starring in.

“The film is about the end of the end of the world. It’s at that point when all the zombies come together and all of the sudden they die,” she said.

Concept art for ‘Rebuild.’

Nikki Wallin

“So we’re left to rebuild the world after 15 years of PTSD, post-apocalyptic trauma. So yeah we’re basically exploring what would happen if all the sudden, the zombies died.”

For Wallin, leadership means creating more roles for women in film.

READ MORE: ‘So much love’: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson gives shout-out to Surrey mayor

“A lot of female roles out there, as we know, are the girlfriend, the stripper. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I want there to be more options,” Wallin said.

“You look at men’s roles and there’re so many different types of men, there is the good-looking guy, the awesome guy, the handsome guy. But there’s also the funny guy, there’s the action hero, there’re so many more different types that I would like to explore that for women as well.”

Concept art for ‘Rebuild.’

Nikki Wallin

That’s why she’s using her skills as a writer, actor and producer. Rebuild stars a strong female lead character, and she encourages other women who are coming up in the film industry to overcome obstacles and keep trying.

“As long as you have a breath in you, anything is possible. So you keep going forward and you keep researching. Never stop learning.”

Bennett agrees that the industry is a tough one.

READ MORE: Vancouver film industry veterans speak out about sexual harassment in Hollywood North

“I applaud actors that can go through it, you know, day in and day out. Because rejection is more than acceptance when you’re an actor. It’s very tough and I commend those that can do it.”

With dozens of films under his belt, Bennett’s been a leader in the B.C. film world for a long time. So where does he see it going from here?

“I think that the industry will continue to grow in British Columbia, and I’m not saying just Vancouver or the Lower Mainland, I’m saying British Columbia,” Bennett said.

Crews set up lighting effects for an interior scene during the 2016 production of ‘Fifty Shades Darker.’

Simon Little / CKNW

“Part of our issue right now is that there’s not a lot of new projects starting because we have no available studio space. We have, I believe an excess of three million square feet of studio space and there’s nothing available.”

But even with the crunch on, Bennett sees room for growth, particularly if the dollar stays low and the government continues to back the industry.

“We’ve got a very good foothold, we have a ton of infrastructure, we have a huge talent pool, both creatively and logistically and in technicians. I don’t see it going away, I don’t see it disappearing,” he said.

“As long as all those kinds of things still align and we all just keep in mind that this still a business, it’s called show business for a reason then I think that we will continue to be competitive with the other three major markets in North America and we’ll continue to grow.”

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