Written by David Patrick Green
OK, let’s hope you now know what this article is about. Not really a request from Tourism Canada to suit up in a mosquito net and go on a canoe trip, but more of an invitation to look further into WTF is going on North of the border and if there’s anything in it for you.
OK, so what is in it for you? Lots, even if you aren’t willing to get on a dog sled and spend the weekend in an igloo.
Let’s start with some facts…and then maybe some rumors and innuendo.
First off, there are two major and several smaller production centers in Canada. We’ll look at the big guys first, shall we?
Vancouver is about a 21 hour drive (done it several times myself) or a three hour flight from Los Angeles . It is the largest production center in Canada in dollar terms with approximately $1.5 billion US spent in 2010 across the province of British Columbia and the total impact to the GDP in BC was $2.0 billion US. The total number of productions in 2010 was 230. This breaks down into 69 features, 43 series, and 134 MOW’s, specials, mini-series, animations and pilots.
Toronto is the largest city in Canada with approximately 5.5 million people in the Greater Toronto Area. It is located about 500 miles North West of New York City, 90 minutes North East of Buffalo and about 2,500 miles North East of Los Angeles. Exact statistics for Toronto were unavailable, but total 2010 spending on film production in the province of Ontario (where Toronto is located) was just over one billion US dollars. Coincidentally, the total number of productions in Ontario was the same as in BC (deducting short films) with 230 productions including 40 feature films, 120 TV series, and 70 MOW’s, specials, mini-series and pilots.
I would like to compare these numbers with Los Angeles but LA production is measured in terms of production days so I will make that comparison when I can find total production dollar statistics for LA or Southern California.
What’s in the statistics for actors? Are there a lot or few actors compared to the number of productions? Good questions and here’s the answer.
In Vancouver, there are about 5,000 actors in UBCP (the Union of BC Performers). Since there were 1.5 billion dollars of production, that means $300,000 was spent for every union actor in BC.
The numbers in Toronto aren’t as rosy. In Toronto there are about 15,000 ACTRA actors for a billion dollars of production, which means $67,000 being spent on production for every union actor in Ontario.
There is 4.48 times as much money spent per actor in BC as there is in Ontario.
OK are you thinking what I’m thinking? That means that every actor in BC could star in a $300,000 movie if the money were divided equally. What are you waiting for? Get up to Vancouver and start acting. That’s what I did. I booked a few jobs in LA like CSI and ER and then I went up to Vancouver to check it out and they greeted me with open arms. Very few actors make the move out of LA. Most actors are trying to get into LA. You swim upstream and find that most of the actors are literally leaving while there is all this production going on around them. Most of them go the opposite way so both agents and casting offices were confused and excited when I walked in.
To illustrate my point, the first year I was in Vancouver I booked a major feature film, three series including an eight episode arc in one and a guest star in another (I had never even read for a guest star before) and two commercials. The first day I was there I had three auditions and over thirty pages of sides to learn. I almost threw up. I had gone from two liners to thirty pages. I certainly was not ready for that, but tried to make the most of it. In a way I probably should have pushed back a bit because there’s no way I was going to kill three major auditions in one day and I probably sucked a lot of the time, but whatever. I booked a lot, worked a lot and got to see one of the most beautiful cities in the world; not to mention it was my boot camp. Now I can walk into an audition anywhere and I own what I do. You just can’t scare me anymore, and that’s a good feeling that was a long time in coming.
So look, I’ve thrown a lot of information at you. Some of it is a little boring and some of it might be pretty inspiring. In any case I hope that I’ve been able to introduce the idea that Los Angeles is not the only place in the world to either start or continue an acting career.
There are tons of unanswered questions I know, so fire away and I’ll try to get to them in the next issue at your newsstand soon.
All the best and keep hacking!
David Patrick Green