More than Moose and Maple Syrup: The Importance of Canada in the Film Industry

 

When people think of the film industry, one thing that often comes to mind is America-more specifically Hollywood. Hollywood, California is a place known around the world for being the home of A-list actors and actresses: Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Emma Stone to name a few, popular talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen, movie production companies Universal Studios and Warner Brothers, and iconic set locations including Sunset Boulevard, the Griffith Observatory and Beverly Hills. And if Hollywood isn’t the first thing that pops up in your brain, perhaps the United Kingdom is. Across the ocean, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have all made an impact so astounding in the entertainment world that it is nearly impossible for the industry not to recognize them. The beloved Harry Potter book and movies series originated here, skyrocketing actors like Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson to overnight stardom, and leading JK Rowling to become the world’s first billionaire author. Game of Thrones, arguably one of the best shows on television, has left their mark on Britain, shooting noteworthy scenes all over the region. For example, Emilia Clarke, Richard Madden and Aiden Gillen, hailing from England, Scotland and Ireland respectively have moved on to dominate the big screens in recent years.

But what about Canada? You know, that very cold, peaceful country that sits atop the juggernaut that is America? I bet Canada isn’t a place that you’d think of if I were to ask you about films. It’s a shame really. Without Canada, a wide variety of characters, settings and even animals that many have come to adore wouldn’t be around. Scoff all you want but it’s true. Now, I could go on for hours really, but I’ll stick to keeping it short and sweet.

Let’s start with the actors themselves. Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, Evangeline Lilly, Rachel McAdams, Ellen Page, Donald Sutherland, Mike Myers and Finn Wolfhard are all Canadian. And you may be thinking: So what? Well imagine Deadpool without Ryan Reynolds? It’s practically impossible. No one could portray that foul-mouthed, gun wielding, red spandex loving anti-hero better than Reynolds. Or what about The Notebook? One of society’s most noteworthy romance films, both Gosling and McAdams hail from Canada. Just try and think of two other actors who could make you laugh and cry and swoon like those two can. They’ve set the standards high for falling in love, let me tell you. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, I’ve got two words: Star Wars. That’s right, Anakin Skywalker, whose reveal as Darth Vader is one of the most talked about moments in film history, is Canadian. Well not actually Anakin himself, but Hayden Christiansen is. As an actor, Christiansen’s portray of Anakin Skywalker remains unparalleled to this day.

Moving on to settings. Just like the cast or script can make or break a film, so can the location. You wouldn’t want to film Jurassic Park in Alaska. A movie’s setting is a character in and of itself: it’s dynamic, contributing to the tone of a film and raising the stakes by presenting an array of environmental challenges. In The Bourne Legacy, Jeremy Renner’s character has to endure an unforgiving snowy landscape as part of his spy training and the bravery and resourcefulness that he masters proves vital later on. Those icy scenes were filmed in Kananaskis Country, Canada. The Revenant, the brutal survival film from which Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his first Oscar, was also filmed in the same area. No other country could have provided such grueling and distinct settings like the Canadian wilderness could. Other major blockbusters including Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, the Percy Jackson and the Olympians films, Suicide Squad and Rise of the Planet of the Apes have all been filmed across the country. From the prairies and the frozen tundra to lust forests and cozy seaside towns, Canada has it all. And it’s not just movies. Hit tv shows-Shadowhunters and the CW’s Riverdale both film in Toronto, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow film in Vancouver, and Once Upon Time filmed in Richmond. All these shows have made this remarkable country their home for multiple seasons Even more recently, Amazon Prime’s newest original series Jack Ryan, starring John Krasinski, which is set to air August 31st, filmed in Montreal.

Canada has and continues to make other, more subtler contributions to film each and every year. For example, the famous direwolves found by the Stark family in Game of Thrones, are from Canada. These wolves live and are trained and handled near Calgary Alberta. Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark, traveled to Calgary and its neighboring city of Banff to film the scenes when she reunites with her wolf Nymeria in season seven.

Another incredible achievement and contribution to film is production design. The Oscar winning movie The Shape of Water, though written to take place in Baltimore, was shot entirely in Toronto and Hamilton Ontario. Nearly everyone who worked on this movie was Canadian. To top it off, del Toro’s unconventional romance earned some of the year’s best reviews and ended up bringing home four Academy Awards. This is a massive achievement for the film industry here, yet it remains relatively unnoticed. In addition, did you know that IMAX was invented right here too? Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kriotor and Robert Kerr hopped to it after being asked if they could produce movies for a larger screen for a Japanese film expo in 1970. Recruiting engineer William Shaw, the three filmmakers reinvented cameras in order to film ‘images in maximum’, otherwise known as IMAX. Together, they filmed Tiger Child, the first ever IMAX movie. Pretty cool huh? So the next time you’re watching those incredible CGI effects in a Marvel or Fast and Furious film on an XL theater screen, gawking because of how amazing it looks, remember: that was brought to you by Canada.

Overall, Canada has proved itself as an important piece in the entertainment industry, despite little recognition. Whenever I am watching a movie at home or at the theater, and I notice a certain place or when one of the actors just mention something related to my country, I get excited. Representation and appreciation is crucial, and it doesn’t just pertain to actors and actresses. I believe it’s important to highlight the culture and locations of different countries in film and in literature. Canada is an extremely diverse and beautiful nation. I’m very proud to call it my home, and I know we will continue to pave the way for future films. After all, in my humble opinion, Canada is the new Hollywood.

 

By Kacy Hogg

Kacy is a college student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately) but Canada, where she graduated with a BHSc in Health Science and is currently studying English. She’s deeply in love with popcorn, French fries and anything Harry Potter related. When’s she’s not chugging back on tea, you can most likely find her at the cinema or tucked away in the corner of a bookstore. Her favorite films include the Harry Potter series (obviously!), Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, Casino Royale and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95

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