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BIG READ: Where is Peter Bishop?

Published August 30, 3011 on Vancouver is Awesome

Friday night delayed-viewing hit Fringe did something unprecedented with its third season finale: it made Peter Bishop, one of its trio of main characters, cease to exist and asked Joshua Jackson, the actor who plays him, not to appear in the show for an unspecified amount of time in the fourth season filming now.

It appears much has changed since Peter Bishop averted the apocalyptic future of season three and created a bridge where Fringe’s two warring parallel universes could cross over and interact. Early episodes of season four are said to focus on what the lives of his beloved Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and “father” Walter Bishop (John Noble) , as well as their alternate universe dopplegangers Fauxlivia (also Torv) and Walternate (also Noble), would be like without him. Lives that are not necessarily worse in the two universes, just different, except for Walter, who is a very sad man without Peter, as you can see in the photo below of Torv and Noble filming a scene of the two of them sitting on the back of an ambulance.

FOX began promoting the upcoming Fringe season with a sublimal teaser which spelled out “Where is Peter Bishop?” backwards and there have been several more teasers since, as well as promos for the aptly-named premiere, Neither Here Nor There, the latest of which appeared last night during a FOX commercial break. And of course the Twitter-savvy Fringe has its own hashtag #WhereisPeterBishop?

Filming of the season four opener began in mid-July and included a stint inside the old Terminal City Ironworks compound in east Vancouver where the two universes overlapped in last season’s twisty finale. Props crew were inside for several days but what they built and what Fringe was filming remains a secret as does almost everything about the premiere, except that it’s big (Observers spootted on set along with Hartford police car). I had speculated Joshua Jackson snuck into town for this on July 21st until I read a report that he’d been briefly hospitalized in Santa Monica that same Thursday for an allergic reaction.

Fringe, needing someone to fill the gap left by Peter Bishop, did upgrade Seth Gabel to series regular. Gabel, who plays Fringe Division agent Lincoln Lee in the alternate universe, reportedly will spend more time as original universe Lincoln Lee and his thick black glasses this season.Read More »BIG READ: Where is Peter Bishop?

BIG READ: Filming Christmas in Summer

Published August 22, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

It sounds crazy to film Christmas TV in the summer heat but it happens every year. Of the more than a dozen Christmas-themed TV movies expected to air in the U.S. this December at least three filmed in Vancouver in July and August. And last week in Chilliwack, Syfy series Eureka filmed real scenes for its animated season five holiday episode called Do You See What I See?, laying out snow on a Christmas-decorated-to-the-max Wellington Street very early Thursday morning.

It took Eureka crew a couple of hours last Wednesday night to build Christmas, unloading trees with lights, garlands, candy canes, nutcrackers and a large snowman. The Euripedes statue/fountain in front of the Sheriff’s Office got its own Santa hat. After it was all done, I watched them shoot a key scene of Colin Ferguson as Sheriff Jack Carter, Kavan Smith as robot Deputy Andy and Chris Gautier as Cafe Diem chef gathered around a bright red holographic projector designed to create a faux winter wonderland on the street. Unfortunately, as often happens in Eureka, something goes array and thesuper photon generator sends a kaleidoscopic wave of holographic overlay from a video game that envelops the town leaving all its inhabitants animated. If you thought Eureka couldn’t get any quirkier, imagine your favourite characters as Looney-Toon cartoons, claymation or anime, as well as the more regular CGI. Apparently, our cartoon heroes have until Christmas morning to reverse it or remain animated forever.

Chris Parnell of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock fame reprises his role from last year’s Christmas special as Dr. Noah Drummer, part of a star-studded roster of guest stars. Edward James Olmos of Battlestar Galactica voices a sled dog pack leader who befriends Deputy Andy and Matt Frewer of Alice and Max Headroom plays an animated version of himself as a polar bear who befriends Jo Lupo. Read More »BIG READ: Filming Christmas in Summer

BIG READ: SUPERNATURAL in Gastown

Published August 15, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

Gastown played host to Supernatural’s Winchester Brothers and their signature black Impala late last week for an epic two-day shoot which went past curfew hours on both Thursday and Friday nights. Since the show’s two stars, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padelecki, don’t film downtown that often, this ranked as a big event in the Supernatural world. Local fans mobilized on Twitter for the chance to see their boys filming scenes of season seven’s fourth episode, Defend Your Life, apparently set in Dearborn, Michigan.

Filming notices posted in the impacted areas of Gastown and the downtown Eastside said the City of Vancouver had given Supernatural permission to film late both nights based on the positive results of a poll conducted in the neighbourhood. Around 10 p.m. on Thursday night, I watched crew hoist a film light from a genie parked outside Incendio’s, a light that would illuminate a block of Alexander street to film a scene of a vehicle chasing a pedestrian west towards the Gassy Jack statue and up onto the sidewalk on the north side. Suddenly a man with waist-length grey hair stormed past me, shouting “What is that noise?” I watched him argue heatedly with police and crew long after the light was up and quiet. I can only imagine the ruckus that happened at 1 a.m. when filming was expected to wrap, the light lowered and equipment packed into trucks. I might feel more sympathetic if it was my neighbourhood, but I was there to photograph the spectacle of Gastown lit up.

On Friday night, Supernatural had permission to film until 2:30 a.m. This time the big light was parked in Chinatown and hoisted closer to 10:30 p.m. to what looked like ten stories above street level. From there, it shone like moonlight on Carrall Street two blocks north to film another scene of a pedestrian being chased by a vehicle, this time into an alley. As I walked towards the closed-off, wetted-down 300 block of Carrall Street, I spied Supernatural’s smoke machines filling it with fake smoke. As actor Jim Beaver once explained about the show’s beautiful lighting: “Its texture is due to expertly placed lights seen through fake smoke. Lovely to breathe day in, day out”. That’s a bit of sarcasm. I can attest to its acrid, foul stench and wouldn’t want to be the crew guy who sat next to one on a Carrall Street bench. By the time I got there, quite a large crowd had gathered at the north end of the block near the Rainier Hotel to gawk at the crime scene with yellow tape, a Dearborn police car and Wayne Country Coroner’s van. I left around 11 p.m. before filming started but I expect the location only got rowdier, situated as it was on the edge of the Gastown party zone, less than half a block away from the Blarney Stone pub.

Supernatural actually began its two-day shoot in Gastown in the Blarney Stonemid-afternoon Thursday with four to five dozen extras inside. When I walked by I saw blacked-out windows for all interior scenes so I didn’t linger. I did plan to return for an exterior scenes with Jared Padalecki at the Rainier Hotel and Jensen Ackles in a suit buying flowers at Greenstems Floral on Abbott Street. Read More »BIG READ: SUPERNATURAL in Gastown

BIG READ: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Green Screen in Vancouver

Published August 11, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

Hail Caesar! Andy Serkis’s motion-capture performance as the chimpanzee Caesar in the mostly Vancouver-filmed Rise of the Planet of the Apes is nothing short of astonishing. I am now kicking myself for not stumbling on to any of the Apes location shoots last summer, especially the one on Hornby Street of digital apes scrambling down the marble facade of the YWCA Health & Fitness Centre, which happens to be my gym. That’ll teach me not to skip a workout.

Filming of Rise of the Apes began here in July last year before moving on to San Francisco and Hawaii. When you catch this reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise in theatres you’ll see it does make for a decent game of spot the location. I didn’t do well, getting caught up in the story and forgetting to look for Vancouver area locations. A friend recognized the home of scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) and his Alzheimer-addled father Charles (John Lithgow) as a heritage house up behind the Mountain Equipment Co-op Store on Broadway. Crew filmed on that street for two weeks and recreated the interior of the house for more scenes in studio. This is the house where young Caesar grows up and Andy Serkis honoured the home owners by introducing himself to them.

I did spot the BCIT Aerospace and Technology Campus in Richmond in some of the exterior scenes of GEN-SYS, the lab where Will Rodman is using apes as test subjects to develop a cure for his father’s Alzheimers. And the Hornby Street location of apes rampaging through San Francisco after their escape from their “Ape Alcatraz” animal shelter, proved instantly recognizable, although I missed the anomoly of Canada Place in one of the camera shots looking north down to Burrard Inlet.

As for the climatic showdown of apes and men on the Golden Gate Bridge, most of it was filmed here with greenscreens on the huge gravel field at Kent and Boundary near the Fraser River path. Background performer Thomas C. Andrews tweeted to tell me of the five days he spent last summer running scared on that gravel, playing one of the many pedestrians/motorists trapped on the bridge. I don’t know how many days in total it took to film all the sequences in that showdown but here’s where I got lucky. Rise of the Planet of the Apes returned to Vancouver this spring to do some reshoots ahead of the movie’s opening this month. I photographed the greenscreens, Highway Patrol cars, the extras playing Highway Patrol officers and three of the stop-motion apes (see below). None of them look like Andy Serkis, but these three performers could have played some of the other lead apes, such as the chimp Koba and gorilla Buck.

Unlike the other Planet of the Apes movies, the apes in this one are not actors in makeup. Peter Jackson’s Weta Digtial created them digitally using time motion capture, which is what the orange square markings are for. From a distance I watched one of the men playing an ape bend over simian-style and scamper along the ground with his crutches. Read More »BIG READ: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Green Screen in Vancouver

BIG READ: ONCE UPON A TIME in Steveston Village

Published August 5, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

New American TV series Once Upon a Time is about two worlds: one set in fairy tales and another set in a New England town, with the more-than-100-years-old Steveston village standing in for Storybrooke, Maine. On Monday night last week, crew transformed Moncton Street in Steveston for filming the next day: boarding up and plastering newspapers on the windows of Nikka Fishing & Marine to make it look like a derelict Storybrooke Free Public Library; putting their own weathered signage like Storybrooke Hardware and Paint over Steveston Marine & Hardware on the side of a building; and erecting several other dirtied-up signs like Purbeck Shoe Store on the Steveston Drugs brick heritage building. This was all done to film scenes of Once Upon a Time lead Jennifer Morrsion (Cameron of House) walking on the boardwalks and crossing back and forth across Moncton Street for the second episode of the series.

The magical story of Once Upon a Time apparently begins in the pilot with the grand wedding of Prince Charming, played by Josh Dallas (Thor), and Snow White, played by Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love), in a distant fairy tale world — filmed this spring in Vancouver with greenscreens and 200-plus fairy tale costumed extras. Meantime, in the world of present-day reality their daughter Emma Swan, played by Jennifer Morrison, has grown up without knowing her fairy tale parents, which goes a long way to explaining her profession as a kick-ass bail bonds collector in Boston. Things change when Henry, the son Emma gave up for adoption a decade earlier, finds her and begs her to come back with him to Storybrooke where he says fairy tale characters have been cursed to spend their lives in the real world without getting happy endings or even knowing their true identities. She drives there with Henry, played by Jared Gilmore (Bobby on Mad Men), in her yellow VW bug, where she meets some strangely familiar people and decides to stay awhile.

No one outside of production caught a glimpse of Once Upon a Time filming the fairy tale world scenes of the pilot, but a small crowd of people did watch Jennifer Morrison do a yellow-VW-bug-driving-scene on Seymour Street downtown in late March and then in early April, a smaller crowd watched her yellow-VW-bug arrival in Steveston as Storybrooke.

Created by Lost writers Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, Once Upon a Time should know how to mix reality and fantasy and cross between the two. The pilot cuts back and forth between the present world of Storybrooke and the past world of the Enchanted Forest Read More »BIG READ: ONCE UPON A TIME in Steveston Village

BIG READ: EUREKA’s Colin Ferguson Does Stunts in Chilliwack

Published July 28, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

Syfy’s summer hit series Eureka goes largely unnoticed filming here, even when it transforms Wellington Street in Chilliwack into the Main Street of Eureka, a remote Oregon town populated by geniuses and scientists whose inventions have a habit of going array and threatening everything nearby. So it was surprising to me how big this small town is at Comic-Con (the annual San Diego geek fest), where thousands of fans sang Happy Birthday to Eureka star Colin Ferguson last Friday afternoon as he filmed it on his flipcam.

Ferguson, who plays the relatively ordinary Sheriff Jack Carter who tries to contain whatever disasters Eureka’s brilliant scientists unleash each week, flew down to San Diego with other main cast last Thursday after spending all day Wednesday filming an episode in Chilliwack. Crew had brought their own grass, a fountain/statue of Euripedes, large Eureka Sheriff’s Office and Cafe Diem facades, an O2 bar, smart cars, Main Street and Euripedes street signs, Weather Predictor screens, Young Hover Drivers and 1-Hour Hologram Processing billboards and Eureka Hobby Expo and Craft Fair posters to transform two blocks of Wellington Street into the centre of a very eccentric fictional town. Ferguson even did his own stunts in scenes where he and young Trevor Jackson lept around trying to catch something we couldn’t see, possibly the leg of a floating woman enacted by a green-suited stunt performer.

Crew even mimicked the movement of a floating woman with a mannequin leg. Later the stunt coordinator demonstrated what would be a full-frontal collision between Ferguson and the green-suited stunt performer. After watching, Ferguson declared: “That’s funny. I want a cup.” No one had one but he shoved something makeshift down his pants anyway, joking with the stunt performer “We’re friends. We like each other, right?” The stunt went off without incident Read More »BIG READ: EUREKA’s Colin Ferguson Does Stunts in Chilliwack

BIG READ – Working the Comic Con Craziness in 2011 – Updated

Published July 21, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

How’s this for Comic-Con craziness? Twihards starting lining up outside the San Diego Convention Center three days early (on Monday) to be among the six thousand lucky enough to get into The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn 1 panel in Hall H, which took place just before lunchtime today. Breaking Dawn 1 was the first panel in Hall H so that Twihards couldn’t ruin Comic-Con like they usually do. What’s even more crazy? That the vampires and werewolves of the mainly Vancouver-shot Breaking Dawn 1 aren’t the most popular panel of the hundreds at Comic-Con 2011. Not even close. That honour belongs to the zombies of AMC TV series The Walking Dead.

Breaking Dawn 1 isn’t even among the most popular of Vancouver-filmed movies and TV series at Comic-Con, which has become less about big movies and more about cult television series in recent years. Locally-shot TV series Pscyh cracked the Top 25 most popular panels and Fringe, Eureka, Supernatural and Alcatraz are all in the Top 50. Breaking Dawn 1 and Underworld Awakening (the fourth in the movie franchise but only the third to star Kate Beckinsale and her vampire cat suit) barely made the Top 50 cut.

Psych presented today to standing-room-only, people-turned-away capacity, with Psych-os either dressed as pineapples or carrying them. Apparently series star James Roday (seen above directing a vampire-themed episode) improvised with a pineapple in the show’s premiere and there’s been one hidden in every episode since. Nominally a detective series, Psych knows how to play to a Comic-Con crowd, with several episodes in its sixth season (now filming in Vancouver) crossing over into genre stuff like vampires, super heroes and Star Trek. In a real casting coup, the original Captain Kirk — William Shatner — plays the father of one of the main cast in an episode filmed Read More »BIG READ – Working the Comic Con Craziness in 2011 – Updated

BIG READ: Jensen Ackles Directs a North Shore SUPERNATURAL

Published July 15, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

Horror series Supernatural has an amazing international fan base: loyal, opinionated and insatiable for news of their beloved boys, the Winchester Brothers. So when word came that series star Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester) would be directing season seven’s first episode filmed, everyone demanded that locations be found and photos taken. Filming of The CW series began last Wednesday but it took fans a few days to find their show at a Travel Lodge in North Vancouver last Friday night.

It was almost dusk by the time I arrived to catch a relaxed and happy director, Jensen Ackles, taking a break between motel room scenes to joke with one of the producers, various crew and his bodyguard/driver Clif out in the parking lot. He later looked down at his smart phone, chuckled and shared something funny: maybe some tweets from his series co-star Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester), who joined Twitter during the hiatus and has proved to be a crazy-fun tweeter, posting a photo of himself eating a steak and teasing veteran Supernatural tweeters Misha Collins (@MishaCollins) and Jim Beaver (@JumbleJim) with tweets. There’s only one problem: Padalecki can’t get verified despite an instant base of 100,000+ followers.

Jensen Ackles clearly enjoys directing after trying it out last season — flying in a week or so early to prep for directing episode four of season six. This time he’s directing a Sam-centric episode three of season seven. If you don’t want to spoiled about it, even a little, stop reading now.

Read More »BIG READ: Jensen Ackles Directs a North Shore SUPERNATURAL

BIG READ: Tribute to Axed Series as New TV Season Begins

Published July 7, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

Filming of the American network Fall TV season got underway this week around North America. Here in Vancouver, Supernatural star Jensen Ackles began directing a season seven episode of the Friday night show. And crew of the other locally-filmed Friday-night-hit Fringe prepped for the start of filming season four next Thursday: scouting locations and rebuilding sets in studio. So this seems an appropriate time to pay tribute to the Vancouver-shot network series not returning to our TV screens in 2011-12.

Sci-fi series V, cancelled in June after two seasons on ABC, couldn’t have been a better series to watch filming here. I will miss it most of all the axed series for its many downtown shoots and couldn’t-be-nicer-to-the-public cast led by its lead actor Elizabeth Mitchell. On the same day last summer that I photographed Mitchell (below) as FBI agent Erica Evans filming at the Vancouver Art Gallery, a photo from an office tower above of dozens of V dead-body extras lying on the grass at Portal Park made the cover of one of our local commuter papers. It took me a couple of months to find her evil counterpart V Queen Anna, played by Morena Baccarin, outside of her studio spaceship and back on location. Last September, V series took over the atrium of the Vancouver Public Library for two full nights to film scenes of Baccarin, Mitchell and other cast members at a black-tie function (below) with a greenscreen wooden spaceship platform erected outside on the south plaza.

CBC Vancouver might miss V even more than me, since the series regularly rented a CBC studio for filming, put one of its V Ambassador Centres in a CBC outdoor corridor and filmed part of its series finale in the entrance lobby. Read More »BIG READ: Tribute to Axed Series as New TV Season Begins

BIG READ: Hip Hop Fairytale RAGS Goes Downtown

Published June 30, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

Hip hop fairy tale Rags looked more like a feature movie than a TV movie, with its dozens of prop New York taxi cabs cruising our downtown streets during its month of filming here. The Nickelodeon musical stars 17-year-old Keke Palmer, who also produces (backed by Mariah-Carey-husband and TeenNick chairman Nick Cannon), in a reverse-gender Cinderella story set in New York with teenage Max Schneider as her Cinder-fella, Charlie Prince. Is this Nickelodeon’s answer to the Disney smash High School Musical?

It could be, with the help of grownup Nickelodeon star Drake Bell of the popular Drake & Josh series in the cast: Bell (see the signature bangs below) is the current Nick heartthrob to Cinder-fella Max Schneider’s heartthrob-in-waiting. You might have spotted the actor Bell here last summer filming the upcoming live-action A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow up, Timmy Turner! Or you might have seen the just-turned-25-year-old musician Bell doing the rounds of New York morning shows this week, promoting his new 4-track EP — A Reminder — whose preview single Terrific recently topped the iTunes chart. I had no idea of Bell’s star power among the junior set until I uploaded this photo of him and Max Schneider (with his ukulele on his back) filming a Rags scene in Oceanic Plaza downtown.

During each take of the scene between Drake Bell and Max Schneider, Read More »BIG READ: Hip Hop Fairytale RAGS Goes Downtown