A day in the Extralife Growth of the film industry in the Sea to Sky Corridor By J. Michael Yates Christ, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine. Doogie Howser is jumping up and down beside me to stay warm, but I’m fine, I know exactly what I’m doing. I have phoney dirt all over me. But I’m fine. When the make-up woman rubbed it all over I said to myself in the dawn’s early light "I’m fine, I’m fine; the rest of these people are crazy, but I’m fine." I’m here to make a few bucks and write a story. I have my Contax T-2 in my shirt pocket (yes, probably because Annie Leibowitz prefers this camera to any other for a pocket camera) and one assistant director says, "Don’t worry about it. Tell them I said you could shoot photos." And the next A.D. says I can’t do this without going through publicity channels downtown. I fire off to find a bathroom and come back burning film all the way. Of course, I am far ahead of myself. The day before I had brought a friend down to Britannia Beach to deal with a job with Sea-To-Sky Extras on an episode of Outer Limits. He was sufficiently ugly that they were interested in shooting his picture. What they wanted were people who looked like miners. Now the sheet which described what we might be required to do listed writhing on the ground as though we were dying and "making out on the hood of a parked car" and several things in between not worth mentioning, because no extra would have had problems with any of them. In any case, an octogenarian couple showed up quite prepared to "make out on the hood of a parked car." I tried to imagine them doing this but my standing imagination slumped into a sitting position and my attention went elsewhere. It was a rather astonishing day, thanks to Adriane Polo, Mark McConchie and Kathy Daniels, who are partners in Sea-To-Sky Entertainment, whose sub-companies include STS Extras and STS Casting. These are the people who first sent down my friend. As a spinoff, I signed on. We spent the whole day working on one shot, up near the mine entrance. This labour-intensive, pain-staking attention to detail is part of what makes the film industry such a potentially huge economic factor within the corridor. As Sea to Sky Economic Development Officer Robert Fine says, the Sea to Sky region has already seen significant shifts in the economy in the past 10 years, and the recent focus on filming is an example of sectors of the economy merging — that of tourism and value-added manufacturing, which filming really is. "The ability to focus on the region through motion pictures and television provides viewers with a way to see the world," Fine says. "The popularity of films during the Depression stemmed from the ability to escape. The escape was, and still is today, to other places and times. "Filming provides access to an area in an instant and that certainly has benefits," Fine continues. "The film Roxanne, filmed in Nelson, is a great example. Tourism had generally been stagnant until that production came around. "With the film a commercial success and the physical beauty of the community highlighted, is it any wonder that tourism visits doubled within a year?" The Sea to Sky Corridor, with its natural beauty, pre-built sets such as the Britannia Beach mine, and proximity to Vancouver holds far greater potential than Nelson. Fine says the Sea to Sky region is now beginning to see the benefits that film production can bring. The immediate benefits have been in several forms, including: o Employment; the use of extras, actors, production assistants and other local talent. o Services purchased; hotels have been the major benefactors, with the Squamish properties filled during the month of March due in great part to film crews for the Sentinel and an Airwalk commercial. Whistler has seen the Mountainside Lodge filled to capacity during off-peak times last fall with Alaska. Groups from landscape architects to logging firms have found themselves participating in this new economy, Fine says. "This is value-added manufacturing at its most primitive. An end product is being created that adds value that is then exported around the world," Fine says. "While we traditionally think of value-added in the forestry sector, it is far more than that. The Sea to Sky Corridor does not have a sparkling record when it comes to creating value-added product. The development of high technology in the region is a good start to shifting to this beneficial segment of the economy, but film, for this region, is more accessible and more easily understood." The romantic, fantasy side of film making attracts even the most cynical locals. Fine says films and filming bring about a sense of excitement for people, and it could be argued that it provides residents in the region with a boost of self esteem. It is one of the few industries that communities seem to support as a whole. "This is indeed a rarity today," Fine says. "The potential, as a result, is limitless for both the number and type of productions and the development of industry to serve the film community. The forthcoming film directory demonstrates this to some extent." A total of 350 Sea to Sky businesses and individuals have listed themselves in the directory as being pleased to provide goods and services to the film community. The directory is one of two major projects the Sea to Sky Film Commission has been focusing on since it was formed about a year ago. Twelve corridor residents serve on the commission. The second priority of the commission has been to complete a corridor-wide film policy to encourage filming in the region and balance the needs of residents. The policy is expected to be sent to municipal councils in the region next month. "This is an industry that has only established itself in the region in the last five years," Fine notes. Casting agencies, production services, scouts, grips and other services have arrived on the scene with amazing speed to meet the new demands that filming is placing on the region. When combined with the burgeoning technology field, Squamish, in particular, is well suited as a future location for a film studio. Squamish offers immediate access to a variety of shooting locations and indoor studio space. Fine believes a film studio in Squamish is a very real possibility — soon. In the meantime, the old copper mine at Britannia Beach is one of the most popular sets. Keep an eye out for the extras, covered in phoney dirt and making out on the hood of a parked car.