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Film industry ‘skyrocketing’ in Surrey

Record year for filming TV shows, movies in Surrey
A film crew sets up to shoot ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ at Cloverdale United Church in January, 2018. (Photo: Samantha Anderson)

If you had to guess how much money Surrey residents earned working on film sets in this city, you’d likely come up short.

City hall reports that 5,697 residents earned a whopping $88.9 million in 2016, up from $47.6 million the year before.And the numbers are growing as Surrey is attracting more and more productions to the city.

Surrey’s Filming Manager James Monk said there were 302 days of filming in the City of Surrey in 2017, up from 88 days in 2012 - a 243 per cent increase over five years.

All told, the City of Surrey issued 189 permits in 2017, up from 173 in 2016 and 40 in 2009. “That’s an increase of 372 per cent in permits,” from 2009 to 2017, said Monk.

And 2018 is already shaping up to be a bigger year than last.“January this time last year was a quiet month for us,” explained Monk. “It seemed a little slow right across Metro Vancouver (last January), but this month, I don’t know about other cities, but in Surrey it is just skyrocketing compared to last year.”

As of Jan. 19th this year, the city had already issued eight permits and Monk said “there will be certainly be more before the end of the month.”

Although Surrey is attracting several commercials, and even some feature films, the majority of filming shot in the city is for TV shows.

In fact, 46 per cent of all productions shot in Surrey last year were TV series, said Monk. In late January, a 150-person crew was filming at city hall for the Good Doctor, starring Freddie Highmore of Bates Motel fame.

“City hall is the hospital in the show,” Monk revealed. “From my understanding, it’s shown in almost every episode.”

See also: VIDEO: ‘Supernatural’ stars in downtown Cloverdale for day two of filming

Last December, fans gathered in Downtown Cloverdale as Supernatural filmed there. The crew constructed a faux burger shop and a gazebo in Hawthorne Square at 5755 176th Street and Mark Pellegrino, who plays Supernatural’s Lucifer, was seen filming close shots.

A new studio that opened in Surrey in 2016 has meant even more film business for Surrey.

SkyDance Media is about to release its Altered Carbon Netflix series, which was filmed exclusively at the 75,000-square-foot studio that opened in September 2016 in the 88th-Avenue Kennedy Heights printing plant once operated by Pacific Newspaper Group.

The building was altered to house an entire film production, including space for production offices, costume shop, set decoration, stunts, special effects, a training facility for the actors and more.

The shot-in-Surrey sci-fi show is set to debut exclusively on Netflix on Feb. 2.

“We’re so excited to finally share Altered Carbon with the world and are extremely proud of the work the talented cast, crew and production team accomplished at the studios in Surrey to bring this story to life, led by our gifted creator Laeta Kalogridis,” said Bill Bost, Senior Vice President or Skydance Television.

Based on Richard Morgan’s 2002 cyberpunk novel and created by Laeta Kalogridis, the series is set 300 years in the future, “when human minds are digitized and downloaded from body to body,” according to a post at

See also: Hollywood arrives in Surrey with sci-fi action in former Kennedy Heights print hall

See also: Netflix sci-fi series ‘bigger than Game of Thrones

“We’re hopeful we’ll be lucky enough to get a second season of Altered Carbon,” said Bost, “and would be thrilled to return to Surrey. The town’s natural beauty and top-notch production talent served as an ideal location.” He noted the studio is available for other crews to rent or lease and typically accommodates 400 production employees at a time.

“We look forward to sharing news on future projects moving forward,” Bost added.

The California-based film and television production company is behind big-budget Hollywood fare like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Star Trek Beyond.

When the SkyDance studio opened, Mayor Linda Hepner said “the City of Surrey along with the Metro Vancouver region will benefit from the $100 million dollars a year and the 400 jobs that Skydance Studios will inject into our local economy.”

While the lion’s share of filming in Surrey is for TV series, the city has graced screens in feature films as well.

“A big one that came to North Surrey last year, at City Hall Plaza, was Skyscraper,” said Monk.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays a retired hostage rescue team lead in the action film.

Monk said the team “landed a helicopter” as part of that shoot, shutting down 103rd Avenue between University Drive to City Parkway last October.

See also: PHOTOS: ‘Skyscraper’ action film, starring ‘The Rock,’ shooting at Surrey City Hall Plaza

See also: VIDEO: ‘The Rock’ thanks Mayor Hepner after filming in Surrey

Then, there was Drag Across Concrete.

“It’s a feature film, but I don’t know how big of a film it was,” said Monk. “That featured Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn. They were filming in several locations in Surrey. Everywhere from Cloverdale to North Surrey to Guildford, they were everywhere. We worked with them closely throughout the year.

Monk noted that with all these productions coming to Surrey to shoot, the residents who staff the crews benefit, but the businesses do, too.

“Those residents, they are going out buying coffee, purchasing local goods. The productions themselves when coming into Surrey, they’re using catering services, they’re hiring contractors, they’re using services in Surrey every time that they have filming.”

And, as Monk explains, shoots are happening all over town.

“Filming is in almost every corner of Surrey, which is great to see,” he said. “South Surrey, Newton, North Surrey Guildford. We have a variety of productions that come through.”

New tool helping sell Surrey

Monk said a tool he’s created is helping attract productions to the city. “The city has taken the lead in terms of an online digital library of locations,” he said. “It has been a massive support to productions.

“So productions that come up here are wanting to map locations to the script, right? So a lot of time scouts are going out in the community and scouting out locations,” he explained. “I developed a tool that highlight’s Surrey’s assets. From libraries to parks to heritage homes that we have in surrey to recreation facilities to outdoor pools.”

Monk said the “first municipal comprehensive digital location library map” launched in January of 2017 and a year into its existence, is doing well. “I know verbally, when working with productions, they say if you didn’t have this I wouldn’t have known about this. It’s turned into four days of filming at this one location. It definitely has helped.”

He hopes for it to be a selling point for productions based south of the border.

Whole region thriving

But as it turns out, it’s not just Surrey reaping the benefits of a filming industry boom.

“It’s cities right across Metro Vancouver,” said Monk. “When you look back at the past five years, the numbers, the graphs, just jump out at you.”

Vancouver was recently named the second best place to “live and work as a movie maker” in North America by

The City of Vancouver says it hosts more than 400 productions a year, resulting in approximately 19,000 jobs annually that pay more than $409 million in salaries to Vancouver residents. Vancouver’s Senior Manager of Film and Special Events Sandi Swanigan said in a release it’s “equally important to recognize is that this award belongs to all of the municipalities in our region who support the film industry.

“No production films only in Vancouver; they film from Port Moody to Surrey to Squamish,” she said. “The Vancouver brand is a regional one.”

Visit for a full list of shows shot in Surrey in 2017.

With files from Tom Zillich and Samantha Anderson

Productions filmed in Surrey in 2017:

  • Mech X4 (TV series)
  • Timeless (TV series)
  • Supergirl (TV series)
  • UnReal (TV series)
  • Flash (TV series)
  • Supernatural (TV series)
  • Lucifer (TV series)
  • Van Helsing (TV series)
  • Love Finds its Way (TV movie)
  • Good Doctor (TV pilot)
  • Haters Back Off (TV series)
  • Man in the High Castle (TV series)
  • Overboard (feature film)
  • Lost In Space (TV series)
  • Better Things (TV series)
  • Godmother (TV movie)
  • Misfits (TV series)
  • Travelers (TV series)
  • Arrow (TV series)
  • Inside Voice (TV movie)
  • Legends of Tomorrow (TV series)
  • Dragged Across Concrete (feature film)
  • The Green Beret’s Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse (feature film)
  • Siren (TV series)
  • The Crossing (TV series)
  • SIX (TV series)
  • Another Era (TV Series)
  • Skyscraper (feature film)
  • Into the Void (feature film)
  • Colony (TV series)
  • Magicians (TV series)
  • Simone Biles (TV movie)
  • Two One (feature film)
  • X-Files (TV Series)
  • The 100 (TV series)

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