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Helping Hollywood North: how TransLink supports film productions in Metro Vancouver

Helping Hollywood North: how TransLink supports film productions in Metro Vancouver

Filming onboard the West Coast Express
Apple TV+ film, Swan Song, filming onboard a West Coast Express train.

Vancouver never plays itself owing to our region’s ability to masquerade as every city imaginable, including unnamed cities, futuristic cities, New York City, San Francisco, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

But the chameleonic nature of Metro Vancouver and our talented video effects industry makes us a popular choice for film productions, earning us the “Hollywood North” moniker. Notable films that have been filmed in our region include Deadpool, Twilight, JunoGodzillaTomorrowland and Rocky IV.

Not only does TransLink support in connecting you with the people and places you love, we also actively support Metro Vancouver’s bustling film industry. We license our unique and iconic fleet and locations for use by productions, whether as sets or as auxiliary facilities for parking.

Popular locations include:

  • the Park and Ride lot at Carvolth Exchange in Langley,
  • the Golden Ears Bridge between Langley and Maple Ridge,
  • Westham Island Bridge in Delta, and
  • the third platform at Stadium–Chinatown Station.

Our Commercial Programs and Partnerships department has a dedicated team that reviews all instances of filming or photography that’s set to take place on or near transit as they all have to be approved before they can take place. In a typical year, we receive 34 general inquiries and 31 formal applications to film on or near transit, of which we process about 11 productions.

While we are keen to support the film industry, we prioritize safe and reliable transit operations. This means we plan well ahead and support filming activities in ways that minimize impacts to customers such as after hours when transit’s not operating. This can be challenging, especially for scripts with aggressive timelines. However, we’re eager to make things work, so it may be possible with the right timeframes through collaboration.

The TransLink Maintenance and Repair Program also limits when filming can take place. There are currently 70 active maintenance and upgrade projects under way throughout the transit system, representing a $200 million investment to improve aging infrastructure.

Despite the limited time available for filming, we have assisted with many productions recently!

In the trailer for Netflix’s The Unforgiveable (at 2:11), you can briefly spot Sandra Bullock’s character at Carvolth Exchange. This is an example of filming taking place directly on transit property.

The trailer for Needle in a Timestack opens with actors Leslie Odom Jr. and Cynthia Erivo’s characters riding the SkyTrain.

Later in the trailer at 1:25, actor Freida Pinto’s character rides the SkyTrain with Odom Jr. in a flashback sequence.

Also recently filmed on transit was the Apple TV+ film, Swan Song. With VIA Rail’s help with coordinating, we licensed a West Coast Express train for filming at Pacific Central Station.

There are other instances where the filming takes place near transit. That was the case for the film Skyscraper when Expo Boulevard and the surrounding area underneath the SkyTrain tracks and Dunsmuir Viaduct, next to Rogers Arena, was transformed into Hong Kong.

This scene can be briefly seen at 1:13 in the trailer. You can spot an outbound Mark II SkyTrain car in the first scene, then the next one also shows Stadium–Chinatown Station’s third platform in the background, behind actor Dwayne Johnson’s character.

Even though a production like Skyscraper doesn’t take place on transit, we have a keen interest in what’s filming since it’s within our limits of approach.

The SkyTrain and our network of overhead trolley wires, powering our buses, all have limits of approaches, which are safe distances that have to be maintained. In general, anything that takes place within 10 metres of the furthermost edge of the SkyTrain track is within the limits. For the trolley wires, it’s within three metres.

Any filming that takes place underneath the SkyTrain tracks is within the approaches. We ask production companies to describe any hazards and risks, and how they will be mitigated to ensure transit service isn’t affected. For example, ensuring there isn’t a chance for filming equipment to drop into the SkyTrain tracks, or for any filming activities to damage infrastructure like support beams.

Want to film on or near transit?

We’re here to help you on your next production — whether you’re a location scout for a large production or a film student.

Read the TransLink Film and Photography Guide, which provides details on available locations, the application and review process and expected timelines. Our transit fleet — such as buses and trains, properties, facilities, and bridges are all available for filming.

To initiate a request, please complete and submit the Film and Photography Application Form. Processing times can range from four to eight weeks depending on the complexity of the request.

Filming at TransLink's head office
The lobby for TransLink’s head office is turned into a New York City advertising firm for this production.

Where else have you spotted Metro Vancouver transit in film and television productions? Share it with everyone in the comments.


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