British Columbia

'If I wanted to live in Hollywood I would have moved there': B.C. movie shoots disrupt civic life

The Township of Langley touts itself as “one of the most film friendly municipalities in BC’s Lower Mainland,” but becoming a big hit with the film industry has also produced a new drama: conflict between those who want film shoots and those who don’t.

When the Township of Langley, B.C. opened its doors to TV and film production, conflict followed

Residents on Coulter Court in Langley saw their neighbourhood transformed into a winter wonderland for five days. Not everyone got into the spirit. (Katia Stano)

The Township of Langley touts itself as "one of the most film friendly municipalities in B.C.'s Lower Mainland," but becoming a hit with the film industry has also produced a new drama: conflict between those who want film shoots and those who don't.

"One house makes all the money and the rest of us just have to put up with the noise and the set-up and no parking," said Katia Stano who lives on Coulter Court.

A five-day film shoot wrapped up Wednesday on Stano's cul-de-sac. A location scout had gone door-to-door before production began and offered residents $250 if they agreed to have their properties covered in snow and Christmas decorations for the duration of the shoot.

Some neighbours felt the disruption was worth more and asked for $600. Stano says the owners of the house where the main filming occurred were rumoured to have received $1,000 a day.

"It pits neighbours against each other," she said, adding that the friction isn't worth it. She declined the film company's offer to put snow and decorations on her property for payment.

As the number of film productions in B.C. rises, opposition has also grown. Proponents say these productions bring cash to municipalities. The film industry invested $35 million in the Township of Langley's local economy last year.

Critics say productions disruptive

But critics, such as residents and merchants, say the industry is disrupting civic life. Film shoots regularly create traffic jams, block sidewalks and driveways, and leave messes behind after shoots have ended.

Arica Appleton is an emergency room nurse who lives with her husband and three kids on Mavis Ave. She frequently works night shifts. A recent film shoot in front of her home lasted nine days.

"I have to sleep during the day and all I hear, as I lay in bed is 'Cut' and 'Action.' I can't do my job properly if I'm not sleeping," Appleton said.

"If I wanted to live in Hollywood I would have moved there," she said, adding the family has considered moving from the neighbourhood they love. 

In 2016, there were 136 film and TV productions filmed in the township, spanning 1,000 film days. That means an average of three shoots every day, 365 days a year.

Film production explodes in B.C

Beyond the township, film production in B.C.has exploded. New numbers released by the province  show an estimated $2.6 billion was spent on production in the province in the fiscal year 2016-17, a 35 per cent increase over the previous fiscal year.

This Langley home has been used for film productions 14 times in the last eight years. (Susan Goldie)

Susan Goldie and her husband own a home in Langley. Film productions have used it 14 times in the last eight years.

Goldie says there are benefits: she earns $1,000 per day during film shoots, but says she understands why neighbours have concerns once the film crews arrive.

"We've generally always gone to speak to our neighbours ourselves before we even agree to have a production in," she says. "It doesn't always work perfectly, I think there's always that risk."

Merchants frustrated too

Filming frustrations have spilled over into Fort Langley's downtown core as well, with merchants experiencing the same frustrations and conflicts as residents.

"Few benefit at the expense of many," said Eric Woodward, president of the Fort Langley Business Improvement Association.

Woodward said that while merchants can refuse to have their stores used as locations, they can't prevent neighbours from renting their buildings, and disrupting access to their business.

Ongoing filming means it's not unusual to see blocked sidewalks and production vehicles taking parking spots on both sides of the street for days.

Don't 'blame' neighbours, says BIA

"I don't think it's fair to blame your neighbours — you should maybe be blaming the system," he said. "That's really the core issue, and I don't think the township takes that very seriously."

Woodward's comments echo those of Stano, Appleton and Goldie. They all agree the permit system the township uses to grant productions permission to film doesn't work.

Residents and merchants are polled as to whether or not they want a particular production to go ahead in their neighbourhoods.

"I think the efforts to poll are laudable, but I haven't seen any evidence that indicating approval or disapproval matters in whether a permit is granted," said Woodward.

A spokesperson for the township downplayed the tensions concerning film production and said the permitting process works well. 

The snow that was left on a residential street finally melted two days after shooting wrapped. (Katia Stano)


Cathy Kearney is a digital journalist with CBC News Vancouver. @CBCcathykearney