On the last day of March, the month when we began our sad departure from cold winter to warm spring, Brenna Owen of The Canadian Press reported that the new mayor of Vancouver BC, Ken Sim, was excited to hear that the "hit HBO TV series The Last of Us" plans to "film Season 2 in 'Hollywood North.'"
The filming will provide Vancouver with more “swagger,” said Sim, adding the series has been one of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows this year.
It will also provide hundreds of jobs, career opportunities and significant contributions to the city's economy, he told a news conference on Friday.
Sim expressed nothing but joy at the idea of his city hall dressed in detritus of the aftermath. At this point, if you were in the know, you knew Sim was really rubbing it in. The city hall in the second season of The Last of Us is not the one in his city, but in Bruce Harrell's. Vancouver is, once again, not playing itself (it seldom does that); it is playing Seattle.
How much of "Seattle" will appear in season two? Judging from those familiar with the videogame the TV show is based on, a good amount.
The videogame features many prominent Seattle locations, including the Paramount Theatre, located at 9th Avenue and Pine Street, Lumen Field in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood, The Seattle Great Wheel, the Seattle Convention Center, the historic Chinatown Gate in the Chinatown-International District, Seattle’s Central Library, the Seattle Aquarium, and yes, the Space Needle.
When it comes to a global audience, you do not get much more Seattle than that. And though all of these locations will be reduced to ruins by a fungal outbreak that collapses our civilization—the transnational civilization that has (as we have learned during this pandemic) only one strong institution, that of the market—it hurts for the role of Seattle to go to the most beautiful city in the Pacific Northwest. And there is a good reason for this. As Jas Keimig explained in the post "Smell That? It's the Sweet Smell of Seattle's New Film Commission":
For the past two decades, Seattle and Washington State have lost out on big-budget Seattle-set productions like 50 Shades of Grey, The Wicker Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, iCarly, and the upcoming The Boys in the Boat. In Hollywood, incentives are the name of the game, and local film and TV industry professionals often have to look for work out of state to stay afloat.
What is Seattle up against when it comes to BC's film incentives? Sure, the state increased in 2022 the film tax incentive from a measly $3.5 million a year to a little more than measly $15 million, but, as I reported back in 2015 in the post "Lynn Shelton's New Project Is Set in Seattle. She Can't Shoot It Here," British Columbia has no caps. Nothing. Hire one of their workers in production, you get a third of your budget back. It's like that. This is what Not Fucking Around looks like.
To give you a sense of the difference involved here: Though Washington expanded its incentive from the size of the moon to something that's even four times larger than the sun, this seemingly impressive super-sun in our state is reduced to near insignificance by what the province up north is, which is nothing less than the whole universe.
Couple this with the weak Canadian dollar, which has only gotten weaker due to ever-rising interest rates ($1 CAD currently only demands 65 of our cents), and the film aspirations in our city, even if they are amplified by the noble ambitions of the Seattle Film Commission, are still as substantial as a vanishing cloud in the dream of someone who thinks they are faintly recalling the cloud after awakening but are, in fact, still sleeping. I hope this gives you a sense of how far Seattle and its state have to go before it can be taken seriously and begin to grow the kind of institutional memory, to use the words of the economist Ha-Joon Chang, that it has in other industries.
Right now, if you want to make an airplane, you must come to the Seattle area; if you want to make a film, you go up north. We are ready for planes; they are ready for films. Why? Because the accumulation of institutional memory is not cheap. It demands the kind of bold money that BC has been spending for more than three decades. Even back in 2000, to the TV show Dark Angel, Vancouver played, Seattle. Thirty-one years later?
The final economic spinoff numbers for the true Hollywood North in Canada are in: the film and television production industry in British Columbia hit an all-time record of $4.8 billion in direct spending in the provincial economy in 2021.