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Cole’s Notes: B.C. could be the main star in films – but we can play any role

Film is a multi-billion dollar industry in B.C., but we rarely play ourselves on-screen
This image from the trailer of the 2021 Punjabi film Honsla Rakh was filmed in Surrey’s Brownsville Bar Park with New Westminster and the iconic Skybridge in the background. Honsla Rakh is a rom-com featuring superstar Diljit Dosanjh set in Vancouver and Surrey. Since its release, it has become one of the highest-grossing Punjabi films of all time. (Diljit Dosanjh/YouTube)

It’s no secret that B.C. is a rising star in the global film industry.

Over the last 40 years, Vancouver has become one of North America’s major film production hubs.

B.C. locales – including in the Okanagan and Vancouver Island – have appeared in countless films and TV shows like Deadpool, Maid, Riverdale, Sonic the Hedgehog, Resident Alien and many more.

READ MORE: ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ movie set to film in Fort Langley

READ MORE: Vancouver Island-filmed show ‘Maid’ premieres Friday on Netflix

There’s just one problem: B.C. cities and towns rarely star as themselves, instead, they’re often passed off as American cities and towns.

I put this question to Prem Gill, CEO of Creative BC, and asked why doesn’t B.C. play itself more often? She told me that the province’s star-studded success is bolstered by its ability to be a ‘chameleon’ on film.

“We offer a world of looks. It really makes us an irresistible destination for film production because you can come here and it’s a place where you could do your visual effects and post-production, but you can also go to the desert or the forest, you can be in an urban centre, you can go to the mountains.”

The silver lining is that B.C. doesn’t have to play a leading role in films to experience benefits from the industry. Every year, the film industry brings in roughly $3.5 billion in economic activity and employs more than 70,000 people.

And in the moments when B.C. is part of the storyline, the province shines on the silver screen.

Just take a look at the 2021 Punjabi film Honsla Rakh, a rom-com starring Diljit Dosanjh as a single dad struggling to raise his son and find love in Canada. The film was shot and set entirely in Surrey and Vancouver. Since its release on Oct. 15, 2021, Honsla Rakh has become the highest-grossing Punjabi film of all time.

READ MORE: It’s a hit: Vancouver-set Punjabi comedy movie breaks box-office record with Surrey talent

Harpo Mander, who lives in the Lower Mainland, played a small role in the film as a receptionist at a yoga studio. Mander told me that she’s never seen her hometown shine on-screen before and it had a big impact on the South Asian community in Metro Vancouver.

“Everybody knows there’s an incredible pool of talent here, but Honsla Rakh helped strengthen that vision to understand the creatives and artists out here have their own vibe,” she said. “It makes people around the world curious and it gets more eyeballs on our artists and creatives here.”

Beyond its box office and critical success, Honsla Rakh also gave opportunities for local talent to be involved in all aspects of the film.

“That really wove Surrey and Vancouver in like a thread through the entirety of the project instead of being just a backdrop of it.”

B.C. has all the talent, experience, infrastructure and settings needed to create box office hits. We’re always happy to play any role, but it’s time for us to start showcasing ourselves and tell B.C. stories to the world.


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