It might still be early to call the city Abbywood, but from rural Mount Lehman estates to Sumas Prairie roads, dozens of properties have seen film crews set up for days at a time this year.
While sets are most frequently seen downtown, permitting documents obtained by The News show that the film industry covered a broad swath of the community with their cameras over the first nine months of 2016.
The historic downtown has seen the most concentrated amount of filming, with a half dozen shoots – all TV movies of the week – taking place through to the end of September.
UFV has seen three different shoots – one TV movie, one feature film (Big Fat Liar 2), and a humour video for a Microsoft employee conference.
And YXX and neighbouring Tradex played host to three others: TV shows Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, along with the feature film Everything Everything. The scale of those productions were larger than many other shoots.
— HollywoodNorth.buzz (@yvrshoots) October 24, 2016
While those locations are heavily trafficked, many other film shoots have taken place in Abbotsford in rural locations out of sight of most of the city.
Large rural estates played home to camera crews for a half-dozen different films, and outlying roads have also been utilized for various driving shots.
A November report said the city had seen 113 filming days on 30 different projects so far in 2016, with a total economic impact of $437,000.
Most of the documents – which were obtained through a Freedom of Information request – are vague about the filming activities proposed, but highway permits requested for Who Killed JonBenét, a heavily promoted Lifetime TV movie about the murder of JonBenét Ramsay, give a glimpse at how one film crew used Abbotsford to shoot their movie.
Parts of that film were shot in late August at four different Abbotsford locations: Bakerview Church on Clearbrook Road, Matsqui Centennial Auditorium, an old credit union off of South Fraser Way, and a large Downes Road property.
Filming involved a mock funeral, with one scene involving “a mob of reporters harassing the mourners at the exterior steps of the church.” Around 100 crew members were involved in the shoots.
After filming, location manager Rico Mielnicki submitted a “wrap sheet” to the city in which he estimated a total of 20 nights were booked in local hotels, and that in total $48,000 was spent in the community, with another $500 donated to community or not-for-profit groups.
Mielnicki told The News recently that the amount spent in Abbotsford was likely larger than that $48,000 figure. That was the amount Mielnicki himself spent – mostly on location fees – but other filming departments would also likely have bought gas, food and other supplies locally, he said.
Mielnicki could not remember the donation, but he said such gifts are normal and intended to provide some community benefit to an area where shooting has taken place. Sometimes, Mielnicki said, jealousy can be an issue if certain locations are repeatedly favoured by film crews.
“That way, everyone gets a little,” he said. One such past donation helped pay for several benches at a neighbourhood park.
For low-budget films with budgets of just a couple million dollars, Abbotsford and other areas east of 200th Street are preferred because a larger provincial tax break is available.
Location fees can vary substantially. For the JonBenét movie, Mielnicki said the credit union cost $30,000 to book – more than the other three Abbotsford sites combined.
Mielnicki, who has worked on movies in Abbotsford, said the city government is receptive to filming, although not as quick to grant filming permits as other municipalities where a single person is dedicated to the process. He also said the Abbotsford School District charges significantly more than neighbouring districts, making the area unattractive for shoots requiring a school.
While the tax incentives increase beyond 200th Street, there are other costs that crop up. Crews have to be paid more to drive out to Abbotsford – although the area is close enough to not require most workers to stay in a hotel.
“We’ll go a little further to find a certain look,” Mielnicki said.
Bigger budget movies, meanwhile, are less concerned with cost, if they can find the perfect location.
“If they get the right location, it’s the right location.”
To see what films were shot where in Abbotsford, see the map above.