What Are Vancouver's Biggest Contributions to Hollywood History?

The Runner's staff and contributors weigh in on the best, movies, shows. and locations put to film in Vancouver

(Nat Mussel)

Vampires Suck, But Twilight is Actually Pretty Good

Kristen Frier, Photo Editor

Let’s be honest, The Twilight Saga fed on the insecurity of young girls who didn’t fit the mold. The novels and films empowered teens to seek out older, stalker-y men who have an insatiable taste for human fluids and who they are powerless to resist.

The first movie starred Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner. It was filmed in a weirdly blue tinted light and made me at, age 10, avoid biting my lip at all costs. Kristen Stewart did it way too much and I refused to be compared to her. I told myself I didn’t want anyone to think that I wanted to be romanticized for being quirky and emotional. Of course I did though, I was quirky and emotional and it was about time I got romanticized for it—at the ripe old age of 10. 

These characters encouraged the scene movement and vampire fashion through the late 2000s and into the 2010s. While Twilight was not responsible for encouraging youth to self-harm, or for magnifying a sickly aesthetic, it sure didn’t help. 

It may have taken until the second instalment of the series, New Moon, for filming to take place in Vancouver, but by then, Vancouver teens had already been affected by this problematic but highly entertaining series. 

Yes, Twilight is problematic. However, I still like it. The Team Jacob/Team Edward fight appealed to my desire to be different when I was 11 and I enjoyed seeing New Moon in theaters, shouting “Team Charlie” because the man was just doing his goddamn best. 

After a certain amount of watching it ironically, I found I was having a good fucking time. It’s no longer a guilty pleasure but rather something I do for me when no one else is watching, because it’s so bad…but so good. 

The X-Files Changed Sci-fi Television Forever

Braden Klassen, Associate Editor

The innovative and iconic series The X-Files combines the spooky mysteries and fantasy elements of classic shows like The Twilight Zone with the serial partner crime investigation vibe of predecessor shows like Cagney and Lacey and Hill Street Blues. 

The writing on the X-Files is versatile, and episode plotlines range from self-contained and trope-heavy “monster of the week” narratives to longer, more detailed storylines featuring plenty of emotion, compelling suspense, and interesting characters. 

Many of the locations that the show filmed at are instantly recognizable to locals. There’s an extra element of fun in watching fictional FBI agents run around Chilliwack searching for the Loch Ness monster, or being stalked through Stanley Park by a satanic cult, or hunting in the hallways of St. Paul’s Hospital for a radiation-stricken man who’s forced to eat the tumours of cancer patients in order to survive. 

Despite David Duchovny’s notorious hatred for the area—he would famously complain about the near-constant cloud-cover and rain, a far cry from his preferred climate of sunny southern California—The Lower Mainland served the show as a geographical chameleon of locations, appearing one week as the boonies of Northern Wisconsin, the next week as the isolated forests of Siberia, and the week after that as Area 51.

In the tradition of classic sci-fi, the series frequently poses philosophical and existential questions to the audience, some of which are actually surprisingly profound and even disturbing. Scully and Mulder are textbook character foils, and their diverging philosophies about faith and science result in a near-constant dialogue about the relationship between two ideas that people often take for granted as irreconcilable. 

50/50 is Vancouver’s Most Underrated Movie

Cristian Hobson-Dimas, Staff Writer

Despite how many well-known films and TV shows have been shot in and around Vancouver, I can’t say that I’m a fan of most of them.

However, a handful of productions that were filmed here—like Juno, for instance—show that approaching a story with originality and thoughtful character building can make for an impactful piece of cinema.

In this vein of realistic and poignant storytelling is one of the most underrated films shot in Hollywood North: 50/50 starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

The film starts with Adam Lerner’s (Gordan-Levitt) cancer diagnosis and unfolds in an honest, unpredictable, and most importantly, impactful way. It shows how, despite a cancer diagnosis with a 50 per cent mortality rate, the hardships of Adam’s life persist. He finds out his girlfriend is having an affair. His father’s Alzheimer’s worsens. He takes on the anxiety of his mother and best-friend Kyle (Seth Rogan), all while being abruptly forced to confront his own mortality.

The most powerful aspect of the film is found in how all the people in Adam’s life unconsciously put themselves at the centre of his diagnosis. “You have no idea how hard it’s been,” his girlfriend says when he finds out she’s been cheating on him. His grief counsellor is using Adam’s sessions for therapy training. And though the rest of his friends and family act in well-meaning ways towards him, no one really knows how to put Adam as the central experiencer of his own diagnosis, which is expressive of our very common and human inability to empathize — even with the people we love the most.

SFU is Either a Secret Government Headquarters or the Location of my ECON 101 Class

Tristan Johnston, Contributor

If there’s one thing that’s more likely to take you out of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie than looking at a former/future California governor, it’s seeing your main library branch being depicted as a cloning laboratory. Perhaps even more jarring than that would be seeing the place that you graduated depicted as a sci-fi multipurpose space.

Maybe it’s the brutalist architecture of the campus that makes it suitable to being a research lab in The 6th Day, or a military academy in the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, or a secret agent headquarters in Agent Cody Banks. The buildings have been in so many sci-fi films that it’s hard to watch many without being taken out of the experience.

The architectural style used at the Burnaby campus is perfect for making any type of oppressive or futuristic looking structure. The same can be seen in other famous buildings such as Habitat 67 in Montreal, the Geisel Library at UC San Diego, or the Buffalo City court building. Each is clad in concrete and often features smaller-than-average windows.

It might also come as no surprise that the same architect who designed the SFU campus, Arthur Erickson, also designed the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, which astute viewers could have noticed standing in for yet another “research lab” in the Netflix show Altered Carbon.

Riverview Hospital, One of the Most Filmed Locations in Canada

Chelsea Franz, Contributor

Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam used to be an asylum. It had an active sector all the way up to 2012, when it finally closed for good. Now, it’s one of the most sought-after out-of-studio filming locations in Canada. 

The 244-acre property offers film and television production crews a variety of forested locations, old buildings, and indoor sets, and is close to the urban city space and both Mundy and Minnekhada parks. 

Due to the history of the property, there’s a set of standards that are upheld by BC Housing that must be met before the site can be acquired. The scripts must be pre-approved and there cannot be any negative depictions of those struggling with their mental health, nor can there be any nudity or sex scenes. These standards make sense due to the work that went on in the buildings. 

Riverview has a history of inhumane and illegal practices, such as administering electroshock treatment and forced sterilization. To film just anything there is blatantly disrespectful, but the architecture, scenery, and lower costs available there will keep filmmakers returning for new projects. 

Perhaps the film industry is the best way to repurpose the grounds, which are now a heritage site. Perhaps the ones who never made it out would think differently