#YVRShoots – Arrow, Midnight Sun and Six Other TV Pilots Await Their Fate

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  This series had its genesis when I began photographing Vancouver area location shoots last summer to get over a long post-Olympics funk. Film and TV productions like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Fringe, Supernatural and Once Upon a Time showcase our city in similar fashion and sometimes put a celebrity actor or two in the frame. You can find more on my daily blog yvrshoots.com

In mid-May, the five American broadcast networks start to unveil their fall plans in New York and we will know if Arrow, Midnight Sun and six other TV pilots we saw filming in the Vancouver area before the Easter weekend will make it to series for next season. Add one more pilot to film later this year for a total of nine and Vancouver ranks second in production of drama pilots, behind New York’s eleven and ahead of Los Angeles’s eight.[See UPDATE below] Why is our city so popular for American dramas?

Well, Vancouver is beautiful, can look like anywhere-U.S.A., has great crews who are cheaper than U.S. ones and shares the same time zone as L.A., where the showrunners and their bosses live. Not to mention that one of the five pilots shot here last year became a surprise big hit — modern fairy tale series Once Upon a Time. Still, nothing is guaranteed with 41 drama series pilots vying for a limited number of primetime slots.

Of the five The CW drama pilots in town last month, two are considered hot prospects: pilot Arrow (based on DC Comics The Green Arrow) and The-Hunger Games-Meets-The-Bachelor pilot The Selection. By all accounts, Stephen Amell is the Green Arrow in this more Jason Bourne-like and less Smallville-ish production based on the old Smallville lot near the Skytrain. Like The Dark Knight’s re-imagined Batman, Arrow’s vigilante superhero fights crime with martial arts and technology plus the special skill of archery.

I saw Stephen Amell in Gastown in late March in character as his secret identity Oliver Queen with Katie Cassidy as his former love Dinah “Laurel” Lance. And in mid-March, I spied Amell in the downtown eastside during a west coast windstorm with Colin Donnell as his best friend and trustafarian Tommy Merlyn, who drives one-heck-of-a-ride, the Mercedes 2012 SLS AMG (two wings and a cockpit).

My photo doesn’t do justice to how much Stephen Amell resembles a Jason Bourne-type action star. Of course I didn’t see him dressed as the Green Arrow or any of the many fight sequences, but fight coordinator James Bamford kept tweeting about how ripped Amell is and how kickass the fight scenes were. And I’ve heard stories of people being shot through their eyeballs. We’re not in Smallville anymore.

Surprisingly for a Hunger Games-esque pilot, The Selection is not about kids fighting each other to the death. Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights) stars as a poor girl chosen by lottery to enter a fierce competition to marry the prince  and become the next Queen of a war-torn nation far in the future. I didn’t see Amy Teegarden as America Singer, William Mosely as servant Aspen or Ethan Peck as Prince Maxim on set, but did visit all of their shooting locations.

On the first day of filming, The Selection set up a village market inside the Terminal City Ironworks complex in east Vancouver with Aimee Teegarden on set as young America. Scenes of America saying goodbye to her village were shot at the Britannia Heritage Shipyards in Steveston, captured beautifully by commercial photographer Clayton Perry in his The Selection photoset on Flickr.

To depict the war-torn country, The Selection went north on the Sea to Sky highway to the Squamish Municipal Airport for scenes of fighting with Royal forces on an airport runway. Scenes from the royal palace must have been filmed at Hycroft in Shaughnessy and at the Casa Mia mansion on SW Marine Drive in Vancouver. And of course, the selection itself took place inside the Orpheum Theatre, the one place I managed to photograph cast. That’s Peta Sergeant below. who plays the rebel leader. Hunger Games-mania could easily propel The Selection onto the CW schedule this fall.

Another pilot for The CW can only be described as meta. Matt Davis took time out of playing in-peril history teacher Alaric on The CW’s hit show The Vampire Diaries to be a blogger named Jeff investigating the rabid fans of horror TV show Cult, who have taken the series too literally. I found Davis on set in Victory Square on the first day of filming, looking too fine for a blogger, and on the last day of filming in Gastown’s The Alibi Room. Even if picked up, Cult will be a short, 13-episode series, leaving room for Davis to return to Vampire Diaries.

The CW medical drama pilot First Cut has some buzz for its lead Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter), who stars as social nerd and new doctor Emily,who finds life at Denver Memorial Hospital a lot like high school, where the popular students are people like former model Justin Hartley (the Green Arrow on Smallville) as a surgical intern. Several Vancouver locations have doubled as Denver Memorial Hospital from Burnaby Central Secondary School to Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam to the main entrance of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at the University of British Columbia below.

The fifth CW pilot to film here is based on an Israeli time-travel musical romance which ran for 200 half-hour episodes. Craig Horner (Legend of the Seeker) is the dead music icon Joey Dakota pictured in the prop memorial placed outside the iconic Marine Building downtown. A young filmmaker Maya, played by Amber Stevens (Greek), is making a documentary about his life and somehow travels back in time and falls in love with her subject, only to be thrown back to the present. She then struggles to find a way back to her love and prevent his death.

NBC has a buzz-worthy pilot in Midnight Sun which filmed in Squamish as Alaska. Julia Stiles (the Bourne trilogy) stars as FBI cult specialist Leah Kafka investigating the mysterious disappearance of a group living on a commune in Squamish as Dugan, Alaska. Her investigation unncovers a larger conspiracy, with Titus Welliver (Lost’s Man in Black) as the cult leader Bennett Maxwell. As you can see below, some of the filming took place on the Squamish dock. (NBC has a second pilot expected to film here in the summer: a reimagining of The Munsters called Mockingbird Lane.) [See UPDATE below]

At ABC, execs hope to capture some of the magic of their new hit Once Upon a Time with pilot Beauty and the Beast. Much of it was filmed in studio on green screen but there were occasional escapes outside studio. Unfortunately, I didn’t find them on location or see any of the cast — Ruth Bradley, Darius Campbell and Chris Egan.
I had better luck with ABC pilot Penoza about a mobster’s widow forced to replace her husband as head of what appears to be a Russian crime syndicate, judging from the filming at Lana Lou’s restaurant dressed as Cafe Rossiya in Vancouver’s downtown east side last month. Australian Radha Mitchell stars as the widow Marta who takes her mobster husband’s place to protect her family, with Luke Goss assigned as her new bodyguard to look after her and her children. I later heard of Penoza sightings near West Vancouver’s Eagle Harbour and out in Steveston, but didn’t find them on location again.
It would be great if all eight (plus one to come) of these locally-filmed drama pilots got series pickups but the odds are against it. We”ll have to wait for the May upfronts to see what the networks decide.
UPDATE: It urns out Mockingbird Lane was incorrectly listed for Vancouver. And since the Munsters reboot is filming in L.A. that changes the rankings to New York, with 11 drama pilots, L.A., with 9 and Vancouver, 8.
Of those 8, The CW’s Arrow, Emily Owens, M.D. (formerly First Cut) and Cult got picked up to series and The Selection is being redeveloped for a possible midseason launch. The only Big Four network pilot filmed here that is going to series is ABC’s Red Widow (formerly Penoza). So 4 out of 8, and possibly 5.

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