Have you ever watched a movie or TV show and recognized the Vancouver Aquarium? Over the years, our galleries and animals have been featured in numerous productions, perhaps the most famous being Danger Bay. This CBC series, which started airing in 1984, followed the marine conservation adventures of the Roberts family.
Since then, the current dolphin habitat has been a pretty popular place to shoot, as seen in Smallville, though The Flash team really jazzed it up in post-production with laser effects and a terrifying CGI shark-mutant. (Behind-the-scenes trivia: there were 150 crew members on-site to shoot that scene!)
If you know the layout of the Aquarium well, you’ll notice something peculiar about the movement of the characters in Josie and the Pussycats when they run from the Strait of Georgia exhibit to the… underwater beluga viewing gallery? (Hint: that ramp actually leads down to the underwater dolphin viewing gallery.)
T.C. Brotherston and Catherine St-Jean of the Aquarium’s Food Services department manage the production shoots that take place here. They explain the whole process starts when a location manager comes to scout the Aquarium. After that, they return with the director and producer for another meeting before coming back a third time for a “tech tour,” which allows the lighting and special effects people to see what they are working with.
It’s the job of production companies to dream big, and T.C. and Catherine have definitely heard their fair share of “crazy” ideas. While T.C. says they can’t always cater to every production request, “We listen to what they really want, then negotiate what we will actually allow them to do. In the end, they are happy with what we can offer.”
The most important consideration of any film or TV shoot at the Aquarium is the health and safety of the animals involved, and T.C. and Catherine give big kudos to the three animal care teams (BC waters, tropical and marine mammals) and their respective curators. “They understand what we’re trying to do, and I’ve learned a lot from them on the animal care side of things,” says Catherine.
Despite the long hours of pre-production, then shooting well into the night, T.C. loves being part of the production excitement — and it sounds like the feeling is mutual. “Everyone loves the Aquarium — that’s what’s really cool. Even the production guys are distracted by the jellyfish during shoots,” he says.
Written by Karen Glanzberg, content writer/producer at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.