In 1989, producer Stephen J. Cannell opened the North Shore Studios to take advantage of the low Canadian dollar. The studio was home to “21 Jump Street”, “Wiseguy” and “Stingray”. It was a smart business move as the Canadian dollar would peak at $0.90 in 1991 and then drop to a low of just over $0.60 against the U.S. dollar by 1998. Even without tax breaks, Cannell was saving 40% right off the top. Also Vancouver was on the same time-zone as Los Angeles and hourly flights out of YVR made commuting easy.
Other producers followed his lead and a boom in the Vancouver film industry followed. New studios started popping up all over Vancouver and the city became known as the mecca for sci-fi television and movies of the week. “The X-Files” shot at the North Shore studios from 1993 – 2002 and was a big hit for the Fox network.
In 2007, the Vancouver shot series Stargate SG-1 surpassed The X-Files as the longest-running North American sci-fi series on TV with 10 seasons and 214 episodes. In 2011 that record was broken by Smallville (also shot in Vancouver) with 218 episodes in 10 seasons.
Those were the golden years. Aspiring actors were able to quit their day-jobs as there was enough work in the film industry. If you were a union actor, and your agent didn’t have an audition for you that day, you could go work as an extra or a stand-in on a TV series and make $200-$300 a day. Plus there was a good chance that if you were on set and looked like you knew what you were doing, you might get given a line of dialogue or asked to perform a minor stunt.
But is the party over?