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Abbotsford in Action: Filming has strong year despite Hollywood shutdown

City hosted a total of 59 film productions with 197 days of filming in 2023
The City of Abbotsford continues to be a top destination for filming (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

Not even the Hollywood creative industry strikes could prevent Abbotsford from once again being a top destination for filming.

The Writers Guild of America – representing 11,500 screenwriters – went on strike from May 2 to Sept. 27, 2023 following a labour dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The strike was tied for the second longest labour stoppage ever by the WGA and brought the industry to a standstill.

Those shockwaves did impact Abbotsford, as numbers across the board were down. However, despite missing out on months of work, Abbotsford still had a strong year for filming.

The City of Abbotsford hosted a total of 59 film productions with 197 days of filming in 2023, utilizing 125 locations and bringing in an estimated $2.49 million of economic impact to the community. This included four feature films, 10 series, 32 movies of the week and nine commercials.

It’s a dip from 2022 that saw 70 productions, 303 filming days, 160 locations and an estimated economic impact of $2.6 million.

Last year saw productions such as Wild Cards, Murdaugh Mysteries, Animal Control, Heretic, and Bearded Girl all film in Abbotsford.

The City of Abbotsford has created an Abbywood self-guided tour with 109 stops of locations that have been used for filming over the years. The tour can be found on the city’s website. Top locations include local arenas, Clayburn Village, the old courthouse, parks, Tradex and more.

The city’s filming resource guide says the growth of the film sector in Abbotsford is supported by lower costs for productions compared to other areas of B.C.

“These lower costs typically make up for the additional costs incurred by lower budget films that see the additional time and money spent on transporting cast, crew and equipment as a barrier to their production work in Abbotsford,” the guide states.

Filming is also a key factor in council’s 2022-2026 strategic plan. It adds more diversity and resilience to the local economy.

Last year also saw the region’s acknowledgement of the local film industry with the opening of Martini Town.

Located just outside of Abbotsford in neighbouring Aldergrove, the Martini Town Merry and Bright was a special holiday event that ran for the month of December.

The event saw an Aldergrove film and television production back lot – with false-front buildings that have been used to simulate everything from New York City to small-town America – open its doors to the public.

Built in 2020 and operated by Langley’s Martini Film Studios, the standing outdoor set covers approximately six acres of a 17-acre site on 272nd Street south of 16th Avenue.

It includes a New York-style street, a movie theatre with a lit marquee, coffee shop, urban alley, courthouse, diner, town square and a quaint small town.

The town was dressed up with lights and Christmas decorations for the holidays by industry crafts people, and it featured live entertainment, including Santa, carolers, and choruses, along with booths for local vendors.

It was described as a holiday event to show what film does in the local economy. During the past two years, Hallmark films shot dozens of productions at the Aldergrove site, with many of those productions also using locations in Abbotsford.

It speaks to the growth of filming in the region and the potential for even more in the future.

READ MORE: Abbotsford in Action 2024

Ben Lypka

About the Author: Ben Lypka

I joined the Abbotsford News in 2015.
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