(Vancouver Economic Commission)

(Vancouver Economic Commission)

The bad news: George Clooney just left Vancouver. The good news: The zombies are on their way out, too.

You never know who—or what—­Vancouver’s film, television, and video game industries will bring to town. Since the late 1980s, fueled by an aggressive scheme of tax incentives and blessed by the happy coincidence of being in the same time zone as Hollywood, these industries have developed to an extent that has transformed Vancouver into one of the top North American sites for entertainment production. The area is surpassed only by Los Angeles and New York—and is vying with Toronto for the business of producing entertainment.

Clooney, along with Hugh Laurie, stars in Disney’s science-fiction mystery film Tomorrowland, scheduled for release in May 2015. That production finished its Vancouver filming in January. Vancouver filming of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, based on the wildly popular naughty novel, wrapped up in February. And ULI members traveling to the city for the 2014 ULI Spring Meeting beginning April 9 will have just missed the crew producing the pilot of the iZombie television series, based on the DC Comics series for the CW television network. That work was scheduled to wrap up just a day before ULI members arrive—assuming zombies can keep to a schedule. However, meeting attendees may have better luck spotting Harrison Ford around town; he stars in The Age of Adaline, the Vancouver filming of which is scheduled to continue through May 2.

Aside from the considerable numbers these entertainment enterprises rack up for jobs and revenue, they add to the buzz of the city. Harrison Ford is in town! And the prospect of technical jobs related to production—the special effects, the editing, the sound work—is a draw to those in search of such work or education, particularly among Canadians, whose employment is the basis of some tax breaks for international producers. Film and television production in British Columbia accounts for more than 36,000 direct and indirect full-time-equivalent jobs, according to the Vancouver Economic Commission.

“Film, television, and digital entertainment—it all enhances our creative economy,” says Nancy Mott, manager of digital entertainment for the city’s economic commission. The work available supports the area’s high-tech and creative industries—and their educational underpinnings, including programs at the University of British Columbia, the Vancouver Film School, and Capilano University in North Vancouver. “We have a creative industry. High-tech, creative industries—and all our educational resources—that is where the future is,” Mott says.

Adding to the Hollywood North buzz: Vancouver also hosts numerous film festivals, including the ninth annual Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, which was scheduled for March; the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, scheduled to begin on September 25; and the Vancouver Short Film Festival, scheduled for November.

For a city that often masquerades as another on screen, the entertainment industry is doing much to enhance Vancouver’s sense of place.