Vancouver British Columbia: You know, Canada’s good city.

Of all the many cities in Canada, Vancouver is certainly one of the better ones.
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I'd never been to Vancouver British Columbia before. Sure, I've been to Toronto, I've been to , I've been to Quebec, and I've liked all of these Canadian cities, except for Montreal which is annoying for the same reason France is (I don't speak French). But I was unprepared for the majesty of Vancouver British Columbia. Before visiting this Western Province, I had pretty much written off Canada as The Land That Summer Forgot.

Downtown Vancouver British Columbia
Downtown Vancouver.

I had Vancouver British Columbia all wrong.

Yeah, that cross goes through the roof.

My impression of Canada was that of a -covered, winter wonderland that never thawed out. I grew up in the snow belt, so for me, anything north of Washington, DC is considered the Circle, and Vancouver British Columbia is up near this place called the Yukon. Yeah, that's up there near the Arctic Circle. We're talking tundra, subzero temperatures, and man-eating polar bears.

With that mentality, it's no surprise then that I didn't relish going there, especially since San Francisco was plenty cold enough for my tastes. But recently, my partner and I were forced to shoot a series of Burger King TV commercials up in Vancouver due to the Commercial Actor's strike in Los Angeles.

The weather in Vancouver British Columbia isn't so bad.

Downtown Vancouver British Columbia
See the window washer?

We flew northward in August and were immediately and pleasantly surprised to find Vancouver almost hot—not Hawaii hot, but still. Granted, it was summer, but Vancouver was sunny and in the seventies most days. The conditions were perfect since we were trying to replicate the Southwest, something made more difficult if you can see the actor's breath.

Downtown Vancouver British Columbia
See the window washer? That dude's nuts.

The city itself seemed very cosmopolitan and positively bustled with activity (if you call Asian tourists “bustling with activity”). Still, it gave the city an appealing energy and Euro-quality. In fact, there was impressive racial diversity for the “Great White North” (we saw Caucasians of all descents milling about).

Clean and modern, Vancouver enjoys weather that's crisp and brisk feeling, dropping just shy of chilly thanks to the bright, West Coast sun that warmed the sidewalk cafés where we were supposed to be working. It's not that much different from Melbourne, Australia.

Everything in Canada is 33% off!

Vancouver British Columbia
Downtown Vancouver British Columbia.

The downtown area is fashionable and , with lots of luxury shopping. So, after “work,” we did our share of shopping, since everything was 33% off thanks to the backwoods-shed-beating the US dollar gives the Canadian one. (Most of the stores were US-based retail operations, but we ran into an odd local store that sold bulk soap, called Lush—you will get a headache shopping there).

Five-star , on the other hand, were in supply. There is one particularly good Japanese restaurant with celebrity photos lining the walls, whose name escapes me. (UPDATE: It's called Tojo's Restaurant. Turns out the chef is friends with Anthony Bourdain.)

That's somebody famous from my list in the background, but I don't remember who.

We stayed at Sutter Place, a four-star hotel located in downtown Vancouver. It was very expensive-looking, with all the comforts you'd expect in an overpriced flophouse, plus the added perk of a dark, wood-paneled hotel bar that attracted many of Hollywood's elite.

In fact, we saw or met so many celebrities, we stopped going anywhere else. (David Boreanaz (from the TV show, Angel), Jason Biggs, Michael Clark Duncan, Linda Hamilton, Corbin Benson, Sean Penn, and Tom Green, to name-drop a few.)

We filmed a TV commercial in Vancouver British Columbia.

On location at the golf course.

The low cost of filming in Canada has made it attractive to budget-conscious (read, all) movie studios, so a number of movies are being filmed there now. Someone said 46 films so far that year. It has become the “New Hollywood.” Sort of.

By shooting in Canada, the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) ironically forced us to save tens of thousands of dollars in talent and production costs.

Me and Geordie.

Normally, creatives, account services, and clients fly down and shoot in with some expensive production company, eat at some expensive LA restaurants, and patronize some expensive local hookers.

By picketing TV commercial sets, SAG just made companies take their business to places like Canada and Prague. That's a lot of money that won't be filling the GNP of the City of Angels. An unintended, yet very real result of the strike was to open the floodgate.

Vancouver British Columbia
The Vancouver skyline.

Now that companies know they can save money, they're not going back (and you think NAFTA caused a “sucking sound…”). The only people who got hurt by the strike were the talent themselves and the production companies.

Well done, SAG! Way to keep your members' best interests at heart!
I am glad, though, that the strike was settled if for no other reason than MCI can stop airing those lame re-cuts of 1-800-COLLECT commercials.

Canada's West Coast city is beautiful.

Jordan Brady; Eagle Eagleson; Lynn Carey; Me; Geordie Stephens; Tom Kelley

During a lull in shooting, we conned our production company into coughing up for a seaplane ride around the lake that was spectacular. The picturesque city is set on a small lake, and across the lake is a smallish mountain range.

But the mountain range is overshadowed by a singular peak that rises from sea- (or, at least, lake-) level straight up into the clouds.

Vancouver British Columbia
Aerial view of the valley north of the lake.

It more closely resembled a but without the hot molten death that bellows from its peak. You couldn't find a better backdrop for a city. It is simply amazing. The Ski resort Whistler is nearby, I'm told, but I'm not a big fan of any sport that takes place outside in the snow.

Vancouver British Columbia
Over Downtown Vancouver

In all, we spent two weeks enjoying the hospitality of our northern cousins, and I must confess, I was in no hurry to leave. The city would be eminently livable were it not for Winter that loomed only a few months ahead of us.

Oh, and all the Canadians. Man, those guys are everywhere. You can't throw a dead cub seal without hitting one of them.

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