If you thought the Far East was exotic, now you know how many people who live there regard our country.
Foreign camera crews gathering footage on Vancouver Island this summer will be conveying our Canuck distinction to a potential audience of 300 million viewers in South Korea and China as they experience some "Island time" on our pristine shores.
You might have spotted crews from China's popular Travel Channel and National Geographic Traveler magazine filming at Fisherman's Wharf and the Fairmont Empress hotel this weekend. It was part of Canada, You Can Be a Star, a partnership with the Canadian Tourism Commission, Tourism British Columbia and six destination marketing organizations including Tourism Vancouver Island.
Some 5,000 couples uploaded images and videos through the Canadian Tourism Commission's Keep Exploring website, with five winning Chinese couples getting to enjoy signature experiences in regions being showcased on Canada, You Can Be a Star.
The couple destined for Vancouver Island got hands-on experience creating a sand sculpture on Parksville's Beach Festival grounds with sculptor David Kaube during a segment that also featured a tour and interview with festival president Cheryl Dill.
After landing in Tofino, they went surfing, whale watching and paddled a First Nations canoe to Meares Island. They also wrapped cheese and tasted wine at Little Qualicum Cheeseworks before experiencing Victoria's urban landscape.
"It's giving them experiences that you and I can enjoy on a regular basis," said Tourism Vancouver Island's Luba Plotnikoff. "The purpose is to provide them with those experiences and see our pristine landscapes, clean water and tasty culinary fare."
Their capital region adventures included kayaking, learning to make sea cider at Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse and visiting Sooke's "seaweed lady" - Diane Bernard, the founder of Outer Coast Seaweeds, who produces organic seaweed spa products that are sold worldwide.
The passionate environmentalist also gives tours of local "seaweed gardens," and reportedly owns 100 pairs of gumboots.
Dave Petryk, president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver Island, said the initiative facilitating such unsolicited media attention in partnership with other destination marketing organizations was a way to increase tourism-derived economic benefits.
"[It] has a great deal of value in influencing travellers' decisions to choose our destination," he said.
"When you think that Canada has 34 million people, it's almost hard to fathom that China's premier travel channel has 300 million viewers," added Plotnikoff. "If we could even tap into just one per cent of that, it would be extraordinary."
Before their recent departure, the South Korean cast and crew of 30 for Adrenaline, a new reality travel show being launched on Korea's popular XTM cable channel next month, highlighted various Vancouver Island businesses and locations.
The show features four celebrities during their fun, adventure-filled travels to Whistler and Vancouver Island.
The Koreans went caving, rock climbing and rappelling at Horne Lake Caves, and tried out various water sports. Crews also checked out the rooftop goats and shopping at the Old Country Market in Coombs before heading to Chemainus and Victoria.
The advertising and public relations value of both projects is in excess of $20 million, Petryk said.
"It's getting Asian audiences to see a lot of the reasons why they should visit, and why so many choose to call it home," added Plotnikoff.
The Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission's Kathleen Gilbert said such unexpected business is always welcome.
"We're interested in doing more with China and others on the other side of the pond," said Gilbert, who, before becoming film commissioner, worked as location manager for foreign projects including commercials and Life, Language and Love in Canada, a 12-part series produced here for Japanese television network NHK.
She also worked with crews on the Swedish and Norwegian versions of the reality series The Mole in 2001.
"There can be a language challenge, but they're usually a hoot to work on," she said. "Crews tend to be smaller on those shows. I've found it very interesting and enjoyable - and so different from how Canadians and especially Hollywood operate."
RUSHES: When Andie MacDowell was here shooting the Hallmark Channel movie Cedar Cove last month, she hinted she hoped to reunite with her daughter Rainey Qualley on an unnamed movie. Mum was the word - literally, as it turns out.
It will be a case of art imitating life again for MacDowell and her youngest daughter, who played mother and daughter recently in Mighty Fine, Debbie Goodstein's autobiographical film about a Brooklyn family that moves to New Orleans in the 1970s. They're joining a growing ensemble cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Sharon Stone, Christina Ricci and Laura Dern in writer-director Paul Duddridge's independent feature Mothers Day.
And, yes, that was Hellboy seen around town recently. Actor Ron Perlman, best known these days for his role as Mike Mignola's demonic comicbook superhero, was here to shoot Kid Cannabis, producer Corey Large's potsmuggling drama that wrapped Aug. 12. Perlman can also soon be seen in Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro's upcoming sci-fi adventure about humanpiloted robots that battle aliens
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