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BIG READ: Here is Peter Bishop on FRINGE

Published October 14, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

Delayed-viewing Friday night hit Fringe recently changed its promotional tagline from “Where is Peter Bishop?” to “Here is Peter Bishop” followed by “Witness the Return Soon”. Hopefully this signals the on-screen return of one of the show’s trio of main characters — the ceased-to-exist Peter Bishop — as well as Joshua Jackson, the actor who plays him. Perhaps that on-screen return will be as soon as tonight’s episode, Subject 9, filmed partly at the Brixton Cafe in Chinatown and the Sherburn building in the West End.

After all, Joshua Jackson made his first on-set appearance on August 23rd at that Sherburn building location where Fringe filmed part of Subject 9, the fourth episode of season four. Jackson filmed inside for half an hour wearing a shirt with motion-capture tags so that ghostly images of Peter Bishop could be inserted into the first three episodes of the season. But it’s also possible that the Sherburn building will be the place where Peter Bishop finally breaks through into the altered Fringe timeline. I’m hoping it will be at fictional Reiden Lake instead — in actuality Rice Lake in North Vancouver where Fringe filmed a couple of weeks later — because Peter Bishop returning to existence at Reiden Lake would provide symmetry in Fringe mythology.

However it happens on screen, Peter Bishop has been back on the streets of Vancouver for almost two months. For example, Fringe fans got to see Joshua Jackson filming a scene today as Peter Bishop with Seth Gabel as original-universe Fringe Division agent Lincoln Lee outside the Orpheum Theatre, where so many pivotal Fringe events have taken place.

Fringe fans have missed Peter Bishop on screen but his disappearance in the season three finale last May did lead to one of the most amazing expressions of fan love I’ve ever seen in a video called #WhereisPeterBishop?, uploaded on YouTube ahead of the season four premiere on September 23rd. “The following footage was shot on location by Fringe fans around the world” — it says in the opening.

These fans photographed or video-taped handmade signs saying Where is Peter Bishop? in Canada, the U.S., Brazil, Israel, Kenya, France, Germany, Russia, Thailand, Australia and 27 other countries. Over 500 fan submissions in total. Fan video editor Zoey M. used as many she could, as well as photos taken by Fringe online promotion head Ari Margolis of cast John Noble, Jasika Nicole and He-Who-Does-Not-Exist Joshua Jackson holding up 4 signs representing season four.

I had met some of these international Fringe fans at the West End and Chinatown shoots in August Read More »BIG READ: Here is Peter Bishop on FRINGE

BIG READ: PSYCH’s James Roday & Dule Hill Wrap Season Six

Published October 3, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

Psych wrapped filming its sixteen episodes of season six last week in Vancouver and is set to debut the first one a week Wednesday on October 12th on the USA Network. A movie-style trailer of the season opener entitled Shawn Rescues Darth Vader reveals star James Roday wearing a tux in full James Bond-mode. Before it airs, some lucky Psych-os, as fans of the comedic-detective series are affectionately known, will attend this Thursday’s Psych Fan Appreciation Day at the historic Ziegfeld Theatre in New York to enjoy a popcorn-fueled advance screening of the season premiere with creator Steve Franks and the full cast in the audience.

Psych has been shooting season six here for six months but films out of order so although I wrote about and photographed scenes from the first filmed vampire-themed episode This Episode Sucks in March, it turned out not to be the season premiere. Similarly, the last filmed episode shot shot in Vancouver last week will not be the season finale but likely episode fourteen, Autopsy Turvy.

What’s Psych about? The season six trailer’s tagline sums it up: A City Under Seige/One Man Stands Prepared/To Predict and Serve. That one man would be James Roday, who plays a former Santa Barbara police sergeant’s son Shawn Spencer, who’s conned the police department into thinking he’s a psychic when he really uses his superior observational skills to solve crimes. Dule Hill is his best friend and police consultant partner Burton “Gus” Guster.

James Roday admitted this summer that Psych is a pretty wacky show ahead of Comic-Con in San Diego, where it is a popular attraction because of the way it crosses over into all sorts of subcultures like vampires, super heroes and Star Trek. Still, the long-running series is at its wackiest in its love for all things ’80s. They must have made an exception last week for guest star French Stewart from the classic ’90s comedy 3rd Rock From the Sun, as you can see below.

Since I watched and wrote about Psych filming its baseball-themed season-six episode Dead Man’s Curve Ball in Nat Bailey stadium this past June, the producers have hosted another parade of guest stars, but none bigger than Star Trek’s original Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner as the estranged father to junior Santa Barbara police detective and Shawn love interest Juliet, played by Maggie Lawson. Read More »BIG READ: PSYCH’s James Roday & Dule Hill Wrap Season Six

BIG READ – Vancouver as Vancouver at Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF)

Published September 29, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

It’s not often in this series that I get an opportunity to talk about movies where Vancouver plays itself but the Vancouver International Film Festival is showcasing 17 locally-filmed features in theatres over the next two weeks.

Four of the most-buzzed-about are Sisters & Brothers, the third in Carl Bessai’s trilogy about dysfunctional Vancouver families with real-life friends Cory Monteith and Dustin Milligan as brothers ; mockumentary Sunflower Hour about maladjusted puppeteers vying for a spot on a hit children’s show featuring real-life pals Patrick Gilmore and Ben Cotton; dramedy Everything & Everyone about a group of family and friends with Ryan Robbins’s naked torso in the teaser; and Donovan’s Echo with Danny Glover as a man who returns to his family home 30 years after a tragic accident in a movie produced by veteran Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood.

I met and chatted with some of the filmmakers and cast earlier this month at a VIFF media conference but didn’t get to see any of the filming here, mostly because the low budgets meant shooting is done mainly on weekends with a limited crew. The Sunflower Hour writer/producer/director Aaron Houston told me it took eight weekends, sixteen days of filming, seventeen locations and thirty-four actors to make his caustic and reportedly very funny mockumentary. Eveything & Everyone took only 12 days in Maple Ridge and Alouette Lake; and Donovan’s Echo filmed last November in Fort Langley. So I’ve made an exception in this series and used the VIFF handouts below to illustrate the films not my own photographs. From top to bottom: bearded Dustin Milligan and Cory Monteith as brothers in Sisters & Brothers; bad-ass Irish puppeteer Ben Cotton and his smoking puppet in Sunflower Hour; Gabrielle Rose and her newly-discovered grandson in Everything & Everyone; and Danny Glover in spooky blue on a bridge in Donovan’s Echo.

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Low budgets don’t have to limit these films when it comes to promotion though. Vancouver filmmakers are as savvy about social media as anyone in this city. The Sunflower Hour and Donovan’s Echo boast websites, YouTube trailers, facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Everything & Everyone has a teaser on You Tube and a facebook page. Sisters & Brothers has a facebook page and currently rules Twitter thanks to Glee star Cory Monteith’s 800,000+ Gleek followers. Almost everyone involved in that film has a Twitter account including @SisBroFilm and director @CarlBessai.

Sisters & Brothers, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11th, Read More »BIG READ – Vancouver as Vancouver at Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF)

BIG READ: Matt Damon’s Spaceship Crashes on ELYSIUM – Updated

Published September 26, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

Updated: April 12, 2013.

Little is known about Vancouver writer and director Neill Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi project Elysium, which has been filming here for the past three months, except that it makes good use of our city’s visual effects expertise and stars a bald, buff Matt Damon as some kind of future being.

It’s not surprising about the visual effects if you know that Neill Blomkamp dabbled in 3D animation and design as a teen in South Africa and then studied it at the Vancouver Film School when his family moved here. After graduation, he worked as a 3D artist for two local visual effects companies, while branching into directing live-action shorts. He returned to his birthplace of Johannesburg to film his Oscar-nominated first feature District 9 about extra-terrestials (“Prawns”) kept in an Apartheid-like government camp. Despite his international success, Blomkamp is still based here and a proud booster of the local film industry. For example, the post-production work on Elysium will be done in Vancouver next year instead of being farmed out overseas like it usually is.

So what is Elysium about? That remains a mystery but “We’re Building the Future and We Need You” signs for a spaceship construction company Armadyne popped up at this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego, part of a viral campaign similar to the one done for District 9 at an earlier Comic-Con. Armadyne dot net is looking for mega-construction engineers, zero g welders, quantum networkers and experts in zero g coupling and multi-generational planning to build a massive space station that can house an entire colony of people — “Taking Mankind into the Future.” Last month I watched Elysium film scenes of a much smaller spaceship, with Matt Damon inside, crash-landing on a mansion facade and lush garden set at a vast gravel field at Kent and Boundary in Vancouver, often used by film crews for green and blue-screen filming. [This turned out to be the Elysium space station where the 1 per-centers of 2054 live.]

The blue rectangles are the spaceship, the fake palm trees have no fronds, and the small piles of sand seem to represent [a beach on Elysium]. Some might complain I’m undoing movie magic with photographs like these, but the contrastRead More »BIG READ: Matt Damon’s Spaceship Crashes on ELYSIUM – Updated

BIG READ: EUREKA Series Finale

Published September 19, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

The fourth season of life in the charmingly-eccentric and scientifically-dysfunctional town of Eureka ends with a big emotional cliffhanger tonight on the Syfy network in the U.S. We will have to wait three more weeks in Canada to start seeing the back half of season four on the SPACE channel. And the fifth and final season of Eureka won’t air until sometime next year in either country (apart from the animated Christmas episode this December). That’s why it feels so strange to write about or show anything of the Eureka series finale, which wrapped filming in Vancouver before the Labour Day weekend. Everything is a potential spoiler.

A month ago, Eureka crew transformed two blocks of Wellington Street in Chilliwack into the Main Street of their fictional town for the very last time: erecting the large Sheriff’s Office and Cafe Diem facades, adding the fake bronze statue/fountain of Archimedes and putting their own signage on the Teddy Bear Dreams clothing store (the owner told me Eureka star Salli Richardson-Whitfield bought several items there over the years). Production also set up running tabs at two downtown Chilliwack institutions: the Decade Coffee House and Sticky’s Candy, where a young salesgirl showed me the empty vats of ice cream consumed by Eureka crew in a day’s filming.

Cast and crew seemed just as verklempt at that last shoot in Chilliwack as the fans who’d come to say goodbye. I saw Salli Richardson-Whitfield hugging the Eureka stunt coordinator and Tembi Locke snapping photos with her camera phone of her TV husband Joe Morton. One of the Eureka producers brought his fancy DSLR to play set photographer, posing Colin Ferguson and Salli Richardson-Whitfield on a bench ahead of their big scene together. Director Matt Hastings couldn’t resist photobombing that beautifully-staged shot, which made everyone laugh and then cry.

Laughter and tears. Everything about that day in Chilliwack seemed bittersweet. Syfy had renewed and then cancelled Eureka earlier in August, belatedly coughing up enough money to film this last-minute wrap-up episode. Read More »BIG READ: EUREKA Series Finale

BIG READ: Cancer Dramedy 50/50 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Seth Rogen

Published September 5, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome.

Cancer dramedy 50/50, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the twenty-something cancer patient given 50/50 odds of survival and Vancouver’s own Seth Rogen as his horndog best friend, makes its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival next Monday — with wide release at the end of the month. Filmed here after the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, this small $8-million budget movie already has a reputation from advance screenings of charming people with laughs and then making them bawl like little children.

Seth Rogen developed and produced this buddy comedy, inspired by the true story of his comedy-writer friend Will Reiser’s extensive treatment after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer six years ago. In real life and fiction, the two pals dealt with it the only way they knew how — through humour. Yet Reiser’s script doesn’t shy away from the more gruesome aspects of cancer like hair loss, chemotherapy and prematurely facing one’s own mortality — both the movie poster and trailer feature a buzzed-about scene of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception) shaving his head.

Set in Seattle, the film also features Bryce Dallas Howard (in town this weekend to see her husband Seth Gabel of Fringe) as the girlfriend who can’t deal with her boyfriend’s cancer; Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air) as the therapist who grows into a relationship with her cancer patient; and Anjelica Huston as his worried mother. And if you’re looking for local actors, Matt Frewer and SGU: Stargate Universe alumni Julia Benson and Peter Kelamis are in some of the scenes.

I missed 50/50’s original five-week shoot in 2010 when the movie was called I’m with Cancer (later changed to Live With It and finally 50/50) but got to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt do reshoots of running scenes near Victory Square when he and Seth Rogen returned to the city for a day last November 1st.

The reshoots started that grey November day with Joseph Gordon-Levitt running along the seawall in Stanley Park near Lumberman’s Arch. Read More »BIG READ: Cancer Dramedy 50/50 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Seth Rogen

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