Colby Spencer
Colby Spencer hosts a series of candid conversations with some of the underslept masses working in Vancouver BC’s booming film and television industry.
The 2023 WGA and SAG AFTRA strikes are now settled. It’s been a long wait, and there is a shared sigh of relief as film work slowly begins to ramp up again. How quickly is still to be determined. For many, this has been a very difficult chapter, and some collective collateral damage has been done, from people’s wallets to their mental health. Most will need months if not years to recover fully from this lapse. Some have sold assets, taken part-time jobs elsewhere or even left the industry altogether in the meantime. There is also a concern that production budgets will be reduced moving forward, adding to a future state stress. In the midst of these strikes, I reached out to four past Vantropolis guests to hear their thoughts, struggles and hopes for the industry as they navigated the uncertainty. A Production Manager, a Costume Designer, a Gaffer and a Director of Photography - varying points of view and experiences but throughout it all, a solidarity to each other and the craft. As we reflect on the rollercoaster of the 2023 strikes, I hope these strike stories provide a source of resilience and support for anyone who might need it.
Nov 30, 2023
1 hr 17 min
Allisa Swanson is an award winning Costume Designer and a film and television veteran with over 25 years of industry experience in the BC film industry. Knowing her calling early on, she moved to Los Angeles, CA after high school where she earned a BFA in Fashion Design & Marketing. She then returned to Vancouver, BC and started her Costume Design career, where she’s worked on TV series like The 100, Once Upon a Time and Firefly Lane, to feature films such as The Snow Walker, which earned her a much deserved Leo Award for Best Costume Design. Allisa and I discuss how she and her team bring costume concepts to life, from design and sketching to sourcing and construction, and then right onto set, where you are never free of real time wardrobe adjustments and repairs (try sewing a loose button back onto an actor while 60 crew hover around!) Allisa gives back in so many ways as well with mentorship and workshops, and she is also currently the President for The Canadian Alliance of Film & Television Costume Arts & Design (CAFTCAD), a not-for-profit organization that promotes learning, networking and achievements of Canadian Costume Design.
Sep 25, 2023
1 hr 5 min
Vantropolis: MIKE GRONER
Insurance probably isn’t the first thing you think about when reflecting on the film industry, am I right? But in the wise words of Mike Groner, Vice President of Front Row Insurance Brokers, "You can’t make a film without it." Mike grew up in Los Angeles, CA and began his insurance career in 2003. He worked alongside entertainment business managers and provided insurance to touring musicians, various productions and the Hollywood elite. He then moved north to Vancouver, BC Canada and joined Front Row Insurance Brokers in 2011, where he continues to specialize in insurance and risk management for film and television productions, equipment operators, video game producers and rental houses. Front Row Insurance Brokers have offices across North America and they cover all sizes of productions - from 2K to 200MM. Mike and I discuss the differences between US and Canadian productions in regards to insurance needs, how to minimize production hazards and transfer risk, and what it was like for him to leave sunny Los Angeles for rainy Vancouver.
Mar 9, 2023
53 min
Vantropolis: PETER LEITCH
Peter Leitch is a true veteran of BC Film. He was the President of North Shore Studios and Mammoth Studios for over 35 years, and he is also past Chair of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of BC. He started his Vancouver film journey in the 80’s with a degree in Commerce from UBC - and then he came on as a Financial Controller with Cannell Films in 1987, hired by Stephen J Cannell himself. He moved up the ranks and helped to build North Shore Studios, which opened in 1989 and is still thriving today. North Shore Studios and Mammoth Studios are just that - multiple stages, hundreds of thousands of square feet and the sheer volume of films and TV shows that have shot there is equally enormous, from the early days of 21 Jump Street and The X-Files to scenes from Deadpool, the X-Men series and Jumanji. Basically, if you work in Vancouver film, you’ve probably been there. Peter and I talk about the rise of the Vancouver film industry from the early days to now, how he’s seen the industry change throughout his long and illustrious career and his thoughts on what the future holds for the next generation of BC Film.
Dec 2, 2022
46 min
Vantropolis: HANS DAYAL
Hans Dayal is a Production Manager in the BC film industry. But more than that, he's a Generation X veteran of film - someone who was around to see the film industry rise up and explode here in Vancouver in the late 90's. We cover his early journey west from Ontario where he left the world of academic sciences to dive into the weird science of film. He started as a Production Assistant on shows like The X-Files and then climbed the ranks - first through the Locations Department and now as a Production Manager. His vast resume includes a roster of feature films and TV series, from the early days of I Robot, The 6th Day and X2: X-Men United to his latest stint as a PM on the Hulu TV series Career Opportunities in Murder and Mayhem. We also dive into the important conversation surrounding mental health struggles in film (including his own) and the toll of stress and how to ask for help - an important aspect of the film industry that just isn't talked about enough. Hans is a great storyteller and this is a jam packed episode!
Apr 12, 2022
1 hr 24 min
Vantropolis: JASON TOTH
Jason Toth is co-owner of Revered Cinema and a drone pilot in the BC film industry. We talk about his journey to film, from his early days of professional sports and visual effects work to how he landed smack dab in the middle of film sets, drone in hand. From his work on the Apple TV series SEE, to the Disney film Togo and an endless roster of commercials, documentaries, feature films and TV series, he breaks down the world of drones and how they operate and function on set, including Revered Cinema’s own personal creations, their heavy lift drones. It’s a relatively new yet intriguing department of film, and Jason shares how the early days progressed into the prominence of drone use on set that we see today.
Mar 11, 2022
1 hr 13 min
So you want to make a film in British Columbia. You’ve got a script, a director, maybe even a rough cast and crew willing to come on board. But do you have any money? And if not, how do you get funding? The landscape and road to filmmaking in Canada is one peppered with government grants, searching for private investment, or even crowdfunding…and with that funding you usually have to meet certain kinds of criteria. Enter - Rachelle Chartrand. Rachelle is an award-winning producer, past-president of Women in Film and Television Vancouver and now president of My Precious Pictures, an award-winning production company based in Vancouver, Canada. Rachelle started out with acting aspirations but quickly pivoted to life behind the camera, writing scripts, pitching projects and then securing funding to get them off the ground and into production once underway. We discuss the journey of producing films, the ups and downs one encounters along the way and then breakdown her latest venture, a feature film entitled Chained. If you’ve ever wondered how Canadian content gets made in this country, this is the episode for you.
Sep 21, 2021
1 hr 13 min
Stuart Haggerty is a 20 year veteran gaffer in the lighting department of the Vancouver film industry. In many ways his career parallels Vancouver’s film trajectory. Stuart started out working at a local film lighting company and worked his way up the ranks, from best boy to gaffer where he’s travelled the world and worked on such feature films as The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, Godzilla, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Big Friendly Giant. He also recently wrapped on two new untitled films with Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock respectively. We talk about Stuart’s journey through film, the relationship between a gaffer a DOP, and how often trial by fire is required to create new and innovative lighting solutions on set.
Aug 25, 2021
1 hr 9 min
Vantropolis: IVETT GONDA
Ivett Gonda is a two time Olympian, martial artist and stunt performer in the Vancouver film industry. Born in Hungary, Ivett emigrated to Canada with her family when she was 4 years old, and joined the neighbourhood Taekwondo studio at age 8. Moving up the competitive ranks, she climbed the ladder quickly, from the junior national level all the way to the Olympics. After retirement from competitive sport in 2016, Ivett found her way to film. Since then she’s worked as a stunt performer on TV shows such as Siren, Arrow, Supergirl, Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow. We talk about film fighting, stunt falls, wirework and free diving; all elements of Ivett’s life on set. We also discuss the parallels of professional sport and stunt work in film!
Apr 21, 2021
54 min
Braden Haggerty is an underwater camera operator with 20 years of experience in coordinating and capturing compelling, high-quality underwater footage for film and television. She’s also a PADI certified instructor and has worked as a stunt performer and safety diver. A graduate of Concordia University’s prestigious Film Production program in the early 90’s, Braden went on to train and work as a camera assistant all the while still working towards underwater as her specialty. She now works exclusively in water environments, and has worked on multiple TV series such as Batwoman, Altered Carbon, Siren and the Haunting of Bly Manor and feature films such as Power Rangers, Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol and the Superman film Man of Steel. As you can imagine, shooting underwater comes with its own set of challenges, technological workarounds, and terminology. Braden and Colby discuss the specialized requirements for shooting an underwater set, what it’s like working in a water tank and the time she handed a pool noodle to Russell Crowe. You’ll never look at underwater scenes the same way again!
Jan 21, 2021
1 hr 7 min
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