Tomorrowland, a new fantasy film that raises red flags about the future, opens in the past: It's 1964, at the New York World's Fair. Only it's actually British Columbia, 2013.
Much of the Disney film was shot in B.C. – a fact celebrated in a new ad campaign that includes the tagline, "Proudly Filmed in Beautiful B.C." Tomorrowland producer Jeffrey Chernov is a Hollywood guy who knows his B.C. stuff.
The Globe and Mail reached him this week in Squamish, where he was scouting locations for the next Star Trek film, which is shooting in B.C. later this year.
How much did the availability of appropriate locations factor into the decision to shoot Tomorrowland in B.C.?
When I first read the script I [thought], how are we going to cover quite a lot of different looks? And my experience from being up here on Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol just said this is a perfect movie to take to Vancouver. We needed farmland, we needed roads and we needed lots of stages.
Was there any location in particular that cried out as you were scouting?
We went up to Enderby and that's where we built the farmhouse [used by George Clooney's character]. Initially we tried to find that wheat field in Enderby, but I know from previous experiences that if you want flat fields you've got to go to Alberta. [Director Brad Bird] had this vision and we just couldn't find the right wheat field, so we went to Alberta.
I wondered if that was a real wheat field or CGI.
One-hundred-per-cent real. Because of not wanting to destroy the wheat field, we went off to a different section, where we measured the length of the [camera] crane and then we took sticks, and took photos [of the cast] on the sticks and went out into the field and placed them. Then we replaced the sticks with the actors and measured everything. And then we went into the pristine field, we put the posts back up, so everyone knew exactly where they had to go and they carefully walked through the wheat field to keep it pristine. We spent all day on that shot.
The building that houses the Museum of Vancouver and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre seemed bang-on for the subject matter – it comes from an era when this dreaming of the future conjured up a certain kind of architecture. Did you have that same feeling when shooting the World's Fair scene?
I was actually at the 1964 World's Fair. I grew up in Queens, which is right near where the fair was. I was 11 or 12 years old. The architecture of that building took me back to that time. It brought back a lot of memories of walking through that fair with my parents.
Another World's Fair set was built at the University of British Columbia; was that the largest set you built?
It was the largest number of extras we had assembled. It may be the largest set in terms of square footage to transform it but it certainly was not one of the biggest sets we built in terms of cost and required space. We had to shoot that piece of [the actor] walking through the World's Fair in pre-production because it was the only time [UBC] would allow us in there. I was glad to get that out of the way in pre-production because it was such a massive day; we had over 400 extras that we had to dress in '64 garb and we had period vehicles. It was a big deal.
There's an enormous NASA complex in the film. Was that also shot in Enderby?
No we actually went to Florida and shot at NASA. So everything you saw with the launch site; that was real. We moved nine times on the movie, which is the most I've ever moved a company around. We started in Vancouver, went to Alberta, went up to Enderby, went back to Vancouver, went back up to Enderby because we had to age the house from what was '64 to 2014. Then we went to Florida, then we went to the Caribbean, then we went back to Vancouver, then we went to Valencia, Spain, and we finished the movie at Disneyland.
Beyond the good locations, the crews and of course the tax breaks, is there anything about B.C. that has an impact on the final product?
The crews are just exceptional. The experiences I've had up here just make me very comfortable that I know that I can get big, complicated movies done. When you look at movies like Steven Spielberg's [The BFG, which he is shooting] right now, or Dawn of and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, these complex visual-effects movies, it takes a real understanding how to make them in order to execute the work. And that's what Vancouver does.
This interview has been condensed and edited.