Published on May 25th, 2013 | by Biz Books


The Biz Interview: Rachel Walls – Editor of World Film Locations: Vancouver

World Film Locations: Vancouver is a new book that is getting a lot of attention in the Vancouver film industry – with good reason. A closer look at the film and television productions that have graced the city, it’s a treasure chest of insights and information about a creative element of Vancouver’s cultural history.

We spoke with Rachel Walls, the editor of the book, to get the details on her editing process and her thoughts on the book and the Vancouver film and television industry.

What can readers – especially Vancouverites – expect to learn about the Vancouver film industry that they might not know already?

The book focuses on particular scenes in Vancouver films and the location used in each scene, so a reader might be curious to know the exact location featured in the films they’ve seen and learn about how that location works within the film as a whole. Also, I suspect there are some films readers might not have seen or realized were filmed in Vancouver, and some older films that many Vancouverites may have not heard of.
The reader gets an insight into original research, for instance, the first scene review in the book is Peter Lester’s account of how the Provincial Courthouse (now the Vancouver Art Gallery) was used in the 1927 feature Policing the Plains. As well as learning about films, the reader can learn about the history of Vancouver through this book as many of the locations featured in earlier pictures have changed or disappeared.

How did Vancouver come to be chosen for this edition of the World Film Locations series?

To be honest, I heard about the series from a friend and put myself forward to edit a Vancouver edition. I had just written my PhD dissertation about representations of Vancouver so it seemed the perfect project – I had been interested in mapping the locations used in film and TV and thinking about how representations affect our perspective of place. And I thought the combination of local and ‘runaway’ Hollywood productions would make for a really interesting addition to Intellect’s series, adding complexity to the idea of cinematic cities that was explored by the first few books that came out in the series which were on iconic cities such as London, Paris and New York.

What is it about Vancouver that makes it such an attractive location for filmmakers?

For Hollywood filmmakers it is a combination of Vancouver’s diverse ‘looks’ (urban, mountains, ocean, suburb, farmland etc), its relative proximity and same time zone, and, formerly, a favourable exchange rate and tax cuts. There is also a strong infrastructure that has been built up, and it is a shame now that this infrastructure is under-utilized and film professionals are out of work because BC’s tax credits are currently not competitive with other provinces. For local filmmakers, it is usually because it is home and accessible but also often because the filmmakers know and are fascinated by the city’s complex character – its various locations can be used to complement and add meaning to the plot.

Through your research into made-in-Vancouver films and television productions, which ones do you feel have been the most influential?

Hmm, different ones are influential in different ways. Allan King’s Skid Row (1956) was important as an early instance of cinema verité. Larry Kent and Sylvia Spring have not had as much recognition as they deserve, but I feel The Bitter Ash (Kent, 1963) and Madeleine Is… (Spring, 1971) were significant as early Canadian features and in exploring societal and relationship issues that are still pertinent today. Of the runaway productions I think The X Files (1993-2002) has to be the most influential, because it ran for so long and reached such an audience. It was certainly the first time I heard about Vancouver as location in the UK (as a young teenager with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson posters on my wall!)

What can you share about your process in editing this book?

When I started the project, a friend warned me that editing a book like this with many contributors might be like herding cats! But I want to give the amazing team of writers and photographers for World Film Locations: Vancouver due credit – they worked super hard to meet deadlines and stayed in close contact with me. However, with twenty writers and six photographers, I did have a whole lot of emailing to do!
First I had to find my writers, so I targeted people I knew in both the UK and Canada and cast the word around in order to find those working on and interested in Vancouver film. I got a great response. I had suggested a list of films I wanted in the book and the people who responded to my call were interested in writing about many of those and several more that I hadn’t come across, which was exciting. It meant we could show a wide variety of Canadian and Hollywood films from across the decades, representing many of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods and cultures.
I advised on format and style, fact-checked and did research to pinpoint a couple of locations, and mapped all the locations in Google maps for graphic designer Joel Keightley to work from when he created the maps for the book. I found photographers to take the contemporary images of the locations and then sent all the content off to the series editor Gabriel Solomons who laid the book out. Then came a lot of proof reading and promotion!

What are your other favourites as far as film and television-related books?

I love David Spaner’s book, Dreaming in the Rain, about Vancouver’s film industry. There are some great stories in there and it introduced me to films like Dennis Hopper’s Out of the Blue, which I love and which Elvy Del Bianco has done a great piece on for WFL: Vancouver. I also am really interested in documentary so enjoyed reading the edited collection, Challenge for Change: Activist Documentary at the National Film Board of Canada edited by Thomas Waugh, Michael Brendan Baker and Ezra Winton. Otherwise, I enjoy reading about filmmakers whose work I enjoy: I’m a big fan of Guy Maddin, so I loved the book Playing with Memories edited by David Church, and a book about Alanis Obomsawin by Randolph Lewis. Of the World Film Location Series, I especially enjoyed the Tokyo and Paris books!

World Film Locations: Vancouver is now available for sale in the Biz Books online store.

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