Movie shoots turn to Abbotsford as Hollywood North expands

Tax incentives also play role in rapidly increasing number of movies being filmed in Fraser Valley.

A film crew was at Abbotsford Regional Hospital earlier this month to shoot scenes for an upcoming made-for-TV Christmas movie.

A film crew was at Abbotsford Regional Hospital earlier this month to shoot scenes for an upcoming made-for-TV Christmas movie.

The dissatisfaction among some downtown merchants with filming in the area has shone a light on the dramatic increase in movie shoots taking place in Abbotsford this year.

The News reported Wednesday that some downtown business owners feel the increasing number of productions is making it more difficult for customers to access their stores. (See story here.)

Both those who supported and criticize filming noted the proliferation of shoots around the city. They weren’t mistaken.

Through Sept. 23, the city had already blown past 2015’s record number of film shoots and filming days.

Last year, 25 films were shot in Abbotsford, more than double 2014’s number. Those films were on site for a total of 105 days. But those numbers have already been exceeded, with 32 film shoots and 106 film days recorded through mid-September. Ten different films were shot in August alone.

Just two years ago, in 2014, Abbotsford saw 11 films shot here and 47 days of production.

The increase is reflective of a region-wide boom in the film industry, with the City of Vancouver having reported a 40 per cent spike in productions between 2014 and 2015.

That rise has been attributed both to the region’s increasing ability to supply the necessary talent to staff large productions, tax credits for money spent on local labour, and the low Canadian dollar.

As Vancouver has become increasingly crowded, crews have looked east. They are encouraged, in part, by the provincial government tax credit, which increases for shoots that take place east of 200th Street in Langley.

John Rollins, location manager for Runaway Sleigh, a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie being shot downtown this week, noted that 62 productions are currently taking place in the region.

“When the big movies come into Vancouver, there’s too many shows. You can’t have 62 shows in Vancouver, so they’ve added a tax incentive to go out the district,” he said. “Now Maple Ridge and Langley are so busy, now we’re looking at Abbotsford and Mission and Agassiz and Squamish and places like that.”

And locals are still getting used to the new reality.

“You guys really haven’t had much filming here in the past, so it’s kind of new to them,” Rollins said. “Ten years ago there was nothing.”

Curiously, many of those films are of the Christmas variety.

Lily Ellis, a co-owner of Spruce Collective and The Market by Spruce Collective, has opened her store to five different movie shoots this year and all five have been Hallmark Channel holiday films.

Ellis, who thinks the films bring the downtown and businesses within it much-needed attention, says Abbotsford seems to “fit into a checklist” of what producers are looking for, being the perfect distance from the city, and with a variety of filmable locations.