The Crossing Studios in Coquitlam - The Crossing Studios
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The Crossing Studios in Coquitlam

The Crossing Studios in Coquitlam

Some big Hollywood names have been turning up in Coquitlam ever since the city’s first dedicated film studio opened up late last year.

Dian Cross, an owner of The Crossing Studios, told The Tri-City News that her company moved into a warehouse off United Boulevard six months ago and is looking for more industrial space to expand.

The most recent project to utilize the space was The Mountain Between Us, starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba (which also shot at Eagle Ridge Hospital), but she said more production companies are looking to film in the Lower Mainland.

“It would be nice for us to find more space in this area,” she said. “We are looking at other possibilities. We would like to grow into that area.”

Coquitlam is ideal, she added, because it is relatively close to downtown Vancouver, Highway 1 and the airport. Cross said that after a long day on the set, most Hollywood actors do not want to travel far when commuting between their hotels in Vancouver and the studios that are popping up in the outer municipalities.

“It avoids the whole bridge and tunnel concept, which is not very appealing to Hollywood,” said Cross, who has similar spaces in Burnaby. “When actors come out here, they are here for four to eight months. They don’t want to be driving out to south Richmond every day.”

The Crossing Studios’ new Coquitlam property is located in an old Rolls Royce marine engine testing centre and Cross said the space is perfect because it has high ceilings and clear spans without columns, which enables the construction of large sets — sometimes as many as four or five in one warehouse at a time — for their production.

A workshop has been set up at the back of the property, where Cross said crews build new sets and props while filming takes place at the other end of the building.

“It is a massive amount of coordination,” she said.

Dian’s son, Dylan Cross, the operations manager, said there has been a recent effort in the business to be more environmentally friendly, putting a greater emphasis on reusing and recycling props and sets.

“There has been a huge movement in Hollywood and the film industry to increase those green initiatives,” he said. “A lot of this will get reused.”

The reusing and recycling of old material has not only been better for the environment but more cost effective, he said. For example, the ectoplasm containers in the new Ghostbusters movie were repurposed and used in Aliens and The X-Files, unnoticed by even the most keen-eyed movie-goer.

“You just put them in the background or change the lighting,” he said.

The Cross family has been in the industry for more than 30 years.

Dian Cross told The Tri-City News she ran a number of studio spaces in Burnaby in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Those spaces closed following the 2007 recession, when the American dollar dropped dramatically and many production companies decided it was better for their bottom lines to stay in the U.S.

But with the Canadian dollar weakening, there has been a huge uptick in the number of projects moving north of the border, and Cross said there are currently 59 green-lit productions in the Lower Mainland alone.

That has meant a boom for cities like Coquitlam and the 33,000 people employed in the film business across the region.

“With the Canadian dollar going down, the film sector is getting busier and busier,” said David Munro, Coquitlam’s manager of economic development, last month. “We want to look at how we can capitalize.”

Since 2012, the number of film permits issued in Coquitlam has risen from 75 to 196, while inquiries have jumped from 150 annually to 413 during the same time period. That has led to a revenue jump for the city from approximately $50,000 five years ago to $263,000 today.

But it is not just revenue for the city, said Dian Cross.

She said that when a production comes to town, her studio hands out a welcome package that includes advertisements for local businesses. It is not uncommon, she said, for coffee shops and lunch spots to see an increase in business as well as furniture rental companies and lumber suppliers.

“Wherever a studio is, there is a lot going on inside and it all comes from local suppliers,” Cross said. “We give them information on the area and recommendations on where they can get some lunch.”

Many major productions have filmed in Coquitlam in recent years, including the TV series Wayward Pines, Bates Motel, DC: Legends of Tomorrow, Hidden Fortress, iZombie, Once Upon A Time, The Flash and The X-Files.

According to the provincial government, British Columbia is the third largest film production jurisdiction in North America. The industry employes 42,000 people across the province, with 80% residing in the Lower Mainland.

gmckenna@tricitynews.com