Nautilus isn’t the only creature feature keeping movie crews busy on Vancouver Island.
Now folks in Campbell River are going ape after learning a Planet of the Apes sequel is coming to their neighbourhood.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which stars Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Jason Clarke, is slated to begin shooting in a lush rainforest nearby as early as next month, said Joan Miller, head of the Vancouver Island North Film Commission.
Filming will also reportedly take place in New Orleans and San Francisco.
“That’s all I can say, I’m afraid,” said Miller, who oversees the Campbell River-based commission that promotes communities from Nanaimo to Cape Scott to the international production industry as potential locations.
And location is what it’s mostly about, she says, referring to why so many major studio pictures — including The 13th Warrior, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Insomnia and Superman: Man of Steel — have been filmed on the north Island.
“It’s very location- driven,” Miller said Thursday after spending hours on a mountaintop in Strathcona Park, where a car commercial was being filmed. “It’s usually because they get access to locations they can’t get in Vancouver.”
Miller, whose archive contains 31,000 digital images, identifies assets producers might require — such as the Inland Island Highway, where action scenes were shot for films including Trapped and Are We There Yet?
“That’s where we shine. We also have a really accessible working forest and we work hard with the timber companies.”
Miller says that, contrary to popular perception, the six per cent “distant location” tax credit producers who shoot in the region are eligible for isn’t as big an enticement for producers of multimillion-dollar features.
“Those producers don’t even claim the credit because they’re not here long enough,” she said. “It depends on your budget and you have to shoot so much of your production there. It’s about getting access to those locations, and relationships.”
Nautilus, the working title of director Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla reboot, was an ideal example, she said.
Scenes for the Legendary Pictures film have been shot mostly in Nanaimo, including a stretch of Victoria Crescent.
It’s the sixth feature film she has facilitated for locations manager Rino Pace since The 13th Warrior in 1995.
“There’s a great working rail system [Alberni Pacific Steam Railway] they’ve scouted,” said Miller, whose not-for-profit commission relies on grants from regional districts and limited provincial government funding.
Miller even staged a petting-farm fundraiser one Mother’s Day to keep the cash-strapped commission going. It doesn’t charge producers for services and operates in the background, its impact often unnoticed until a film is released.
Take, for example, scenes for GI Joe: Retaliation, which opens Wednesday. An elaborate ninja sequence that appears to be taking place on a mountaintop in Tibet was actually shot in Bute Inlet the summer of 2011, she said.
A striking shot down Bute Inlet, where ninjas hang off ropes on cliffsides, is in the film’s trailer.
“We were looking for boats and floating accommodation for this huge second-unit crew, getting them planes and helicopters and rigging equipment,” she recalled. “I never did go up there, but I knew where they could get the cheapest fuel and so on.”
Miller will likely have more flashbacks when Superman: Man of Steel, shot in part in the old Cassidy Hotel, opens in June.
Meanwhile, the 300-person Nautilus film unit is about to move south to a remote patch of wilderness near Shawnigan Lake for a quick shoot before crews relocate to Vancouver.
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