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Hollywood North: The Canadian Film and Television Industry Marks Canada Day in Los Angeles

“You don’t mind a little Shania do you?”

From Shania Twain to Shawn Mendes, the hits were spinning Sunday as more than 300 people gathered at the Gallery Food Hall in Santa Monica, Calif., to celebrate Canada Day — the official national holiday of Canada, which marks the day the Canadian Constitution Act was passed in 1867, effectively uniting three, then-separate colonies into one country.

Canadian DJ Kristin Leeder (a.k.a. “DJ Filthy Gorgeous”) provided the tunes for the afternoon-long event, put on by Canadian expat organization, Canadians Abroad in conjunction with the Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles and co-sponsored by Roots. The party brought out people like Disney Channel actress Marieve Herington, TV host George Stroumboulopoulos, and “A Million Little Things” writer Julia Cohen at the buzzy new West Side food hall that’s home to fast-casual dining options from celebrity chefs like David Chang and “Top Chef” winner Michael Voltaggio.

Though Canada Day actually falls on July 1, the official celebrations in Los Angeles started Saturday, with an invite-only reception hosted by the Consul General of Canada in Los Angeles, Zaib Shaikh. Shaikh, a former actor best known for his starring role on the comedy series “Little Mosque” welcomed a small group of actors, directors and studio executives to his official residence located in Hancock Park, where he spoke of the continued need to champion homegrown talent.

From Ryan Reynoldsblockbuster sequel “Deadpool 2” to Sandra Oh’s Emmy win for “Killing Eve,” it’s been a banner year for Canadian actors, and the country’s thriving film and television industry. A number of acclaimed productions are currently shooting in Canada, including Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and CBS All Access’ “Star Trek: Discovery,” which both film in Toronto. According to the Toronto Film and Television Office, 2018 marked the highest-ever number of projects shooting in Toronto, with 1,412 projects shooting more than 6,322 days of production.

In Vancouver, home to shows like “Riverdale” and “The Flash,” as well as films like “War For the Planet of The Apes” and “Deadpool,” the Vancouver Film Commission says almost $4 billion was spent on the industry in 2017, making Vancouver Canada’s top film hub, and the third-largest in North America. Filmmakers and showrunners in both cities benefit from the Canadian government’s Film or Video Production Tax Credit, which offers a credit of 25 per cent of qualified labor to Canadian-controlled production companies, with a credit of 16 per cent of qualified labor costs to Canadian­-controlled production companies and those with a permanent establishment in Canada.

zaib shaikh kirstine stewart
CREDIT: Charde Espinoza

For Shaikh (above right, at the Canadians Abroad party) who says he’s working to promote more Canadian-led productions both at home and in Hollywood, it’s a testament to the intrinsically Canadian values of cooperation and diversity that attracts people to the country.

“Canada offers a great combo of talent, both behind and in front of the camera, infrastructure in the form of top class studios and crews, and the economic stability of incentives that form the backbone of why billions of dollars worth of Hollywood production gets made in Canada,” he said.

Shaikh cites studios like Entertainment One and Lionsgate as companies that started out of Canada and now have major US and global production bases. “Then you have Warner Bros, CBS and Netflix, just to name a few, who have all made major investments in Canadian studios over the past few years,” he said.

For Trina Hendry, a PR director from Guelph, Ontario now based in Santa Monica, the secret to Canada’s success in Hollywood lies in its spirit of collaboration, and perhaps a little Canadian “aw shucks” charm.

“Film festivals, like the Toronto International Film Festival, are doing a great job of not only increasing visibility for Canadian-made films in Hollywood, but also bringing industry professionals around the world together to collaborate,” said Hendry, who has worked on projects for the festival, as well as events with people like Justin Timberlake, Jackie Chan and Eric McCormack. “But I also think Canadian actors have become so popular because being Canadian, by nature, we are somewhat self-deprecating and overly apologetic, and that lends itself to actors and directors not taking themselves too seriously and being willing to throw it all out there.”

Shaikh says the success of stars like Oh, Jim Carrey, Seth Rogen, and more recently, “Homecoming’s” Stephan James showcases the breadth of Canadian talent in TV and filmmaking that dates back to the early 1900s, when Mary Pickford moved from Toronto to Los Angeles, and became one of the first stars of the silver screen. “Canada and Canadians have always had a deep history of making the entertainment business what it is,” he said. The goal now is to continue the push for more Canadian-produced content to be seen.

Josh Isaak, a marketing executive from Vancouver who attended Sunday’s festivities, sums it up best: “Canadians have that perfect mix of grit and determination, but we’re also cultured, likeable and ready to put in the hard work to make things happen. Whether we’re working in entertainment, fashion, or tech, we’ve always been humble about our contributions,” he said, “but I think we’re finally ready to step into the spotlight.”

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