Hollywood North, aka Vancouver, a home away from home for TV stars


Vancouver is called “Hollywood North” by showbiz folks because it’s home to a steady flow of major television and film productions, making it almost as star-studded as Hollywood itself.

The bustling Canadian city is surrounded by the spectacular scenery that is part of British Columbia, drawing a multitude of productions looking for the ideal locations. Plus the great exchange rate of the Canadian dollar helps the production budgets go further. And Vancouver draws lots of tourists for the same reasons.

Dozens and dozens of movies, miniseries, documentaries, comedies and dramas have been shooting there since the beginning of the year. They follow in the footsteps of the X-Files which set up camp during most of its nine seasons on the air.

Covering the same territory that Agents Mulder and Scully traversed, are the current crop of shows that have found a home there. Coincidentally, they also fall within the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres. Among them are the WB’s outstanding fantasy-adventure dramas Smallville and Supernatural.

The Sci-fi Channel’s Stargate Atlantis and USA Network’s The 4400 have returned for their fourth seasons to film at a wide range of scenic spots. And the pilot of the new Bionic Woman series is set to roll on Vancouver locations guaranteed to grab the audience’s attention.

Season two of Eureka, Kyle XY and Psych, plus Painkiller Jane are among the other cable series. The scenery is so fantastic, no wonder Hollywood’s big-budget sequels Fantastic Four 2 and X-Men 3 headed north for their super-hero stories.

Intrepid folks who want to experience a “blockbuster” vacation in Vancouver on an “independent film” budget can check in with their local travel agents to find great deals. We go to our neighborhood Flight Centre office to chat with their travel experts, who have always found us the best bargains for flights and hotel rooms.

Flight Centre’s main North American office is based in Vancouver, so we’ve found they know the territory very well. It’s important to be familiar with the key attractions around town and how to get to them to maximize your experience. Among the must-see places are Gastown, Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

Historic Gastown, in the heart of downtown Vancouver, has cobbled streets and charming shops with 19th century facades. It also features many restaurants, saloons, galleries, courtyards and tiny mews that have been filmed for Smallville, Fantastic Four 2, White Noise 2 and Blade.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge has left many performers breathless as they’ve done their scenes on the swaying foot bridge that spans a gaping canyon with a rushing river below.

Just 15 minutes from downtown, Grouse Mountain is Vancouver’s most visited attraction. There’s a cable car that can whisk visitors up to the top of the snow-capped vantage point, which sits on the edge of wilderness, yet it is so close to civilization. Men in Trees, Shooter, American Venus, and of course the X-Files have lensed their unforgettable eerie adventures there.

A little further from town, off the coast on Vancouver Island, the ye olde English town of Victoria has hosted the cast and crews of X-Men 3, Fantastic Four 2, Tale of Two Sisters, Babe 3 and Road to Redemption. The trip there by ferry is unforgettable, especially during whale watching season.

For an added thrill, star-spotting is a favorite past time in downtown Vancouver, especially on fashionable Robson Street. It’s where street-side cafés and restaurants have become the trendy hangouts for showbiz folks, enjoying a breath of fresh air in Hollywood North.

Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.