Film & Theatre

Bangalore in Vancouver

Vancouver always the backdrop, never the star

The new Vancouver Convention Centre became a familiar sight worldwide during the 2010 Olympics, showcased on TV screens everywhere. But throw a collection of colourful vehicles in front of it, and a crowd of South Asian extras, and people will think it’s a media company’s headquarters in Mumbai.

Or so went the thinking for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise’s latest globe-trotting spy adventure. Sigh. Nobody would add a subtitle saying “San Francisco” under a shot of the Sydney Harbour. (When Cruise and company shot the second MI in Sydney, they set the story in Australia.)

Vancouver has a setting that is as uniquely identifiable as Sydney, San Francisco, Hong Kong or Rio, and yet producers of TV and movies — mostly American — have no problem framing their shots so the mountains don’t show, throwing in a couple of wide shots of the foreign city being depicted, and then calling the city Memphis (the recently cancelled series Hellcats) San Francisco (new show Alcatraz) or New York (damn near everybody). But those shows do at least a bit of work to hide the fact that the real shooting location is Vancouver.

(An exception came from the makers of the most recent Final Destination sequel, who used digital wizardry to simulate the destruction of the Lions Gate Bridge, but didn’t bother to disguise the bridge as they identified it as Anybridge, USA.)

M: I-GP filmed its exteriors all over the world, most memorably in Dubai, and came to Vancouver for mostly sound stage work, building elaborate interior sets for a Russian prison, hotel hallways, as well as sundry ventilation shafts and sewer tunnels.

The Mumbai sequence was filmed partly in India but Tom gets his action close-ups at the convention centre.

Later in the movie, a rare lull in the action sees Cruise and his team — Paula Patton, Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner — cooling their heels for an al fresco night out on the deck at Granville Island. Clearly visible is the art deco Burrard Bridge, lit up as it always is. As well, False Creek and its yachts are photogenically highlighted. Again, familiar sights to every tourist who has ever come here from Japan, Britain or Peoria. And yet, the M: I-GP brain trust feels entirely comfortable adding a bit of set dec and throwing a subtitle under the scene identifying the location as Seattle.

Really? There’s an art deco bridge right next to the Pike Place Market?

This article first appeared HERE.