Prepared for Daniel Francis and Encyclopedia of British Columbia — January, 2000.
[Published in 2000 by Harbour Publishing]
By MICHAEL WALSH
[PART 7: BROLLYWOOD — 1978-2000]
When Justis Greene took over as film promotion officer in July 1978, all the important infrastructure was in place for an industry to provide full-service location support. The Canadian dollar had begun its historic decline that would reach 72 cents US in 1986, an economic reality that made it possible for U.S. producers working in B.C. to realize irresistible savings. A significant increase in the production of features, TV movies, series pilots and series episodes created the need for new facilities.
In 1981, the Dominion Bridge Co. building in Burnaby was pressed into service as a movie soundstage for the Charlton Heston-directed feature Mother Lode. It remained busy, officially opening as the provincially-owned Bridge Studios in 1987, the year that Los Angeles producer Stephen J. Cannell brought two television series — Wiseguy and 21 Jump Street — to B.C. In 1989, together with Canadian Paul Bronfman, Cannell built the North Shore Studios in North Vancouver (renamed Lions Gate Studios in 1997).
The growth of the service sector continued under Dianne Neufeld, who succeeded Greene at the BCFC in 1982. It was reflected in an annual industry directory, The Reel West Film And Video Digest, first issued in 1980. Its publishers, Sandy Flanagan and Martin Borycki, spun off the bi-monthly Reel West Magazine in April, 1985, a periodical that became an advocate for the B.C.-based industry.
Telefilm Canada's creation of a a Broadcast Fund (1984) and Feature Film Fund (1986) did not impress the magazine's editors, who pointed out that the federal agency received 16 percent of its funding from B.C., and returned only two percent to the province.
TV producers, meanwhile, were sufficiently impressed with B.C. to bring ever more sophisticated series into the province. By the mid-1990s, so many special-effects-dependent shows were based in Vancouver that the region became known as “Hollyweird.”
The Vancouver International Film Festival, revived in 1982, added a proactive Trade Forum in 1986. A year later, the privately-owned Vancouver Film School opened. Such factors contributed to the parallel growth of indigenous film making. In 1987, the provincial government set up B.C. Film, with Wayne Sterloff as president, to provide funding for local productions.
Some B.C.-based producers, including Lloyd Simandl and James Shavick, prospered by making direct-to-video features. Others, including Peggy Thompson, Charles Wilkinson, Sandy Wilson and the fearless documentarist Nettie Wild, developed independent theatrical features.
In 1991, University of B.C. film student John Pozer produced as his Master's thesis a feature film, The Grocer's Wife, that brought together Bruce Sweeney, Mina Shum, Kathy Garneau, Gregory Wild and Lynn Stopkewich, all of whom went on to direct their own independent features.
The visibility of filmed-in-B.C. TV shows such as The X-Files (1993-1997) and such blockbuster features as First Blood (1982), The Accused (1987), Legends of the Fall (1994) and Double Jeopardy (1999), have established B.C. as a major North American production centre, rivalling New York for the No. 2 position (after Los Angeles).
Such is its success that in 1999 California's production unions began lobbying U.S. politicians to protect them from B.C.’s "foreign" predators.
The above is Part 7 of an eight-part restoration of an Encyclopedia of British Columbia entry written by Michael Walsh originally published in 2000. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.
B.C. Filmmaking Industry — Part 1 [Introduction]; Part 2 [1897-1928]; Part 3 [1931-1938]; Part 4 [1939-1952]; Part 5 [1952-1967]; Part 6 [1968-1977]; Part 8 [Bibliography].
TIMELINE: 1978-2000These are the significant events in the history of the B.C. film industry. For those who want to know more, included in square brackets at the end of each item is a reference to my source for the information. The first one — [HP/11] — guides you to page 11 of Hot Property - A Tribute to 86 Years of Motion Picture Production in British Columbia 1898 - 1984, published in 1984. All of the works I consulted in the preparation of this history are listed in this posted Bibliography. Each has a reference code to identify it in the Timeline listings.
◼︎ 1978, July 1 — Justis Greene, second head of the B.C. Film Promotion Office, replaces interim film co-ordinator Bob Grey. [HP/11]
◼︎ 1979 — Garth Drabinsky and Nat Taylor open their first Cineplex theatre in Toronto. [TO/48]
◼︎ 1979 — Gastown Post & Transfer, a post-production house, opens in Vancouver. [RW/V7#1]
◼︎ 1980 — Cineworks Independent Filmmakers Society opens in Vancouver. [TO/48]
◼︎ 1980, September — Reel West Productions founders Sandy Flanagan and Martin Borycki publish The Reel West Film And Video Digest 1981, the first of an annual series of industry directories.
◼︎ 1981 — The first use of the Dominion Bridge Co. facilities in Burnaby as a movie soundstage is for the Charlton Heston-directed feature Mother Lode. [BS]
◼︎ 1982 — Dianne Neufeld succeeds Justis Greene as B.C. film commissioner. [RW/#29]
◼︎ 1983 — Garth Drabinsky arranges a hearing before the Restrictive Trade Practices Commission. Six major U.S. distributors agree to change their practices just hours before the hearing. [TO/49]
◼︎ 1983, July — The CFDC creates a Broadcast Fund. [CF/88]
◼︎ 1984 — The CFDC is renamed Telefilm Canada, with a $35 million Broadcast Fund per Minister of Communications Francis Fox's National Film and Video Policy. [TO/49]
◼︎ 1984 — Garth Drabinsky buys Canadian Odeon Theatres and changes its name to Cineplex Odeon. [TO/49]
◼︎ 1985 — Christopher Delaney founds the Delaney & Friends Cartoon Production Studio in Vancouver to produce animated ads and television specials. [RW/V10#2]
◼︎ 1985, April — Kathryn Allison edits the first issue of Reel West Productions' bi-monthly Reel West Magazine. Sandy Flanagan is the publisher.
◼︎ 1986 — The Film and Television Trade Forum is founded as a complement to the Vancouver International Film Festival. [RW/OctNov-95]
◼︎ 1986 — Garth Drabinsky's sale of 49 percent of Cineplex Odeon to MCA Inc. returns effective control of Canadian theatrical exhibition to the U.S. [TO/52]
◼︎ 1986 — Telefilm Canada sets up a $165-million Feature Film Fund (over five years). [TO/52]
◼︎ 1986, November — B.C. Film and Video Industry Association president Ray Hall tells a University of B.C. film seminar audience that Telefilm Canada receives 16 percent of its funding from B.C., yet returns only two per cent to the province. [RW/#9-p10]
◼︎ 1987 — Barry Ward and Delna Bhesania found Bardel Entertainment in Vancouver to produce animated cartoons for television. [RW/V10#2]
◼︎ 1987 — Chris Bartleman and Blair Peters found Studio B Productions in Vancouver to produce TV cartoons. [RW/V10#2]
◼︎ 1987 — The provincially-owned Bridge Studios officially opens at 2400 Boundary Road, Burnaby. [RV/60]
◼︎ 1987 — The Vancouver Film School, a private, bonded trade school registered with the Private Post-Secondary Education Commission and the Ministry of Skills, Training and Labour in the Province of British Columbia, opens with a class of 12 students [RFS/4]
◼︎ 1987 — The Vancouver Film Studios opens at Grandview and Boundary, Vancouver. It’s privately owned by Vancouver's McLean family. [DS]
◼︎ 1987, April 12 — Stephen J. Cannell’s made-in-Vancouver series 21 Jump Street premieres on the U.S. Fox TV network.
◼︎ 1987, September 16 — Stephen J. Cannell’s made-in-Vancouver series Wiseguy premieres on the U.S. CBS TV network.
◼︎ 1987, October — The B.C. Film Fund is established, with Wayne Sterloff as its first president and CEO. [LW]
◼︎ 1988 — David Bowes and Lisa-Jane Gray found Bowes Productions Incorporated to produce stop-motion animated films. [RW/V10#2]
◼︎ 1989 — Federal Communications Minister Flora MacDonald's Film Products Importation Bill, an attempt to limit the power of major U.S. distributors, dies on the order paper. [TO/53]
◼︎ 1989 — Matthew O'Connor and Tom Rowe found Pacific Motion pictures to produce feature films. [RW/V7#2]
◼︎ 1989, September — Built on a former brewery site, North Shore Studios opens at 555 Brooksbank Avenue in North Vancouver. [RV/52] The owners are U.S. producer Stephen J. Cannell and Toronto’s Paul Bronfman. [RW/Oct-Nov95]
◼︎ 1991 — The Grocer's Wife, John Pozer's University of B.C. Master's Thesis is the feature film that brings together a group of young filmmakers: Bruce Sweeney, Mina Shum, Kathy Garneau, Ross Weber, Reg Harkema, Greg Wild and Lynn Stopkewich.
◼︎ 1992 — Aaron Spelling Productions leases the former Carling O'Keefe Brewery on Vine Street in Vancouver for use as a TV series production studio. [RW/Aug-Sept92]
◼︎ 1993, April — Chris Carter, having discovered "Hollywood's biggest back lot," shoots the pilot episode for The X-Files. [XMS/29]
◼︎ 1995 — Disney announces the opening of a Vancouver animation studio. [TO/56]
◼︎ 1995, May 19 — Peter Mitchell replaces Dianne Nuefeld as B.C. Film Commissioner. [RW/V10#2]
◼︎ 1997 — Frank Giustra’s Lions Gate Entertainment buys the North Shore Studios complex and renames it Lions Gate Studios. [DS]