On the Shoulders of Hollywood Giants

Most people who visit Canada are amazed by its picturesque scenery and rich modern culture. Its varied natural features (including rainforests, mountains, and canyons) and its bustling cities are inspirational, leading to a large number of blockbusters being filmed there. Many Hollywood films are shot or undergo post-production in Canada, including popular examples like Inception, Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men, and Night at the Museum.

Since the first Audiovisual Coproduction Treaties and MOUs were signed in 1963, Canada has been party to bilateral agreements with 53 countries including China, France, and the United Kingdom. It is one of the countries that sign the most agreements with the most widespread partners in the world. In order to promote the development of its film industry and attract more foreign film companies to be shoot there, the Canadian government has implemented a series of tax credits in the film and television industry, including the promotion of “Canadian content”. This policy applies to programmes made by large Canadian corporations, or film and television productions created by Canadians. As a rule, 25% of the staff’s salary for one work can apply for tax exemption, but the amount should be no more than 60% of the budget excluding government funding. There are also tax credits specifically targeted at foreign film companies’ affiliates in Canada or native companies involved in foreign film and television production.

Saving money is one big selling point of Canada’s appeal to Hollywood. Statistics show that on average, the weekly wage of an assistant director in Hollywood is $4,594 for shooting on location and $3,258 for shooting indoors, while an assistant director’s weekly wage of the same level in Canada is $2,927. However, if price is the only driving force, why doesn’t Hollywood choose cheaper countries to shoot films? In fact, Canada’s media industry is quite developed, with various professionals, equipment, and post-production services for making films and television programs. Many Hollywood blockbusters outsource their special effects to Canadian companies. There were only a few companies focusing on special effects in Vancouver in 2004, but now the number exceeds 50, including a branch of the famous Industrial Light & Magic.

Then to what extent do tax credits in Canada attract American film and television industry giants? According to an unnamed American film producer, “Although reducing cost is one of our major targets, the most important is to take magnificent shots. Film investors take advantage of Canada’s unique natural environment and landscape, and then the tax credit rate. We hope that this policy remains steady. Who wants to transport equipment abroad, or from one province to another?”


The Revenant

The Revenant, which secured Oscar glory for Leonardo DiCaprio, is made up of 93% outdoor scenes, mostly shot in Canada. Shooting was planned to be completed in 80 days but lasted 9 months, because the team insisted on using the natural light of the Rocky Mountains in winter. Shooting locations included the following:




Bow Valley

Castle Rock


Dead Man’s Flats

British Columbia

The Sea To Sky Highway

Squamish Valley



Catch Me If You Can

Many years before The Revenant, DiCaprio starred in Catch Me If You Can. He played an extremely smart teenage swindler whose family’s financial situation took a turn for the worst. He committed a series of crimes, and was arrested by a federal agent named Carl (played by Tom Hanks) in France. Director Steven Spielberg used this biographical film to embody his motto “life is like a drama”.

The scene in which DiCaprio’s character is arrested in France was actually shot in Notre Dame Basilica in Vieux-Montreal, Quebec, opposite the Place d’Armes. It is a typical Gothic Revival building, with magnificent and colorful interior design. Its celling is dark blue, decorated with golden stars. For historical reasons, Montreal’s architectural style is European, making it an ideal place for shooting films. Place Royale has also been used as a location.



Adapted from a famous erotic book, 50 Shades received a mixed reaction, but its influence cannot be underestimated. Set in Seattle, it was actually shot in Vancouver, as was Finding Mr. Right. The sequel is also set to be shot here.