British Columbia

B.C. movie extras enjoy boom times thanks to low Canadian dollar

The Canadian dollar may have ticked up a bit of late, but it's not expected to slow down a booming sector of cross-border trade: movie-making.

2016 could be best year ever for B.C. film and TV production

Movie and TV extras — such as those doused in fake blood for a zombie-themed production filmed in downtown Vancouver — can earn up to $200 a day. (Chris Corday/CBC)

The Canadian dollar may have ticked up a bit of late, but it's not expected to slow down a booming sector of cross-border trade: movie-making. 

Background performer Surya Kellar says in a good year like 2016, he can bring in $60,000 a year working as a movie extra. (Chris Corday/CBC)

B.C. historically does well in film production when the dollar drops, and 2016 appears to be on track for a banner year. Film and TV background performers, in particular, say they are are busier than ever. 

The Union of B.C. Performers says demand for extras is up 18 per cent since 2014. 

"I've been doing it for about 12 years now, " background performer Surya Kellar told CBC, while sitting in a makeup chair having a thick coat of fake blood applied to his face.

Danielle Lucas is an old pro when it comes to playing a zombie extra in feature movies and TV shows in B.C. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Kellar is one of a few dozen extras cast in a zombie thriller being filmed inside Vancouver's cavernous old post office on West Georgia street this month. 

Movie background performers can earn $200 a day, and in good times like this, Kellar said he can bring in $60,000 a year.

"It's always been rocky, but the last few years have been great," said Kellar.

A few dozen extras, completely doused in movie blood, were cast in a zombie thriller being filmed in Vancouver this month. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Other extras, like 24-year-old Danielle Lucas, have been working flat out since the Canadian dollar started to sink compared to the U.S. dollar.

"This is really good money for being a union member and having no skills or a college education," said Lucas, also one of the zombie extras in the movie being produced for a digital streaming network.

"I can't ask for much more."

Makeup artist Megan Nicholson says she's working non-stop with the low loonie attracting more American productions to Vancouver. (Chris Corday/CBC)

'Feast or famine' for B.C. film

Film and TV production is a $2-billion-a-year business in B.C., and the province hosts almost 60 per cent of the American television and movie shoots done in Canada.

Those who rely on a steady stream of business say this year will be one of the best ever. 

Producer Tim Carter says his company, based in Vancouver, watches the dollar closely. (Chris Corday/CBC)

"It's feast or famine in the film business. Sometimes you won't work for a long time," said Megan Nicholson, one of about 10 makeup artists transforming the extras into scary zombies on the Vancouver movie set.

"But right now, you're continuously working. I'm always being asked to do something. It's really good, but tiring. I love it," she said. 

Money talks in film production

About 30 productions are on the go in B.C., including the zombie thriller, which is being produced by a Vancouver-based company. The film's producer says he watches the dollar every day.

"It makes a huge difference to what we are able to do, especially on a show like this," said Tim Carter, as he prepared to shoot a scene with a helicopter on the roof of the post office. 

Dozens of movie extras are playing zombies in a still-to-be-announced production filming inside Vancouver's old post office this month. (Chris Corday/CBC)

"It's a small-budget shoot, so gaining another $20,000 or $30,000 makes a huge difference to us."

The low dollar isn't the only draw for Americans to shoot in B.C., of course.

They also like the quality of the crews and the great locations. But the producers say money talks, and what really makes cameras roll here is saving a few bucks. 


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