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Lucifer series ditches Vancouver production for a sunnier tax scene

Lauren German, Kevin Alejandro, and Scarlett Estevez appear in an episode of Lucifer, a series set in Los Angeles but filmed in B.C. until recently.

The high-profile American TV series Lucifer, set in Los Angeles but shot in Vancouver, is moving production to the real L.A. thanks to California tax breaks – a plot twist in the buoyant narrative around British Columbia's booming TV production sector.

News of the move comes days after a senior official at Warner Bros. Entertainment, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, touted Vancouver as a great place for production, citing the nine TV series the entertainment giant is currently shooting in the Vancouver region.

Those shows, each with an average annual production cost of about $54-million, include The Flash, Arrow, Supernatural and the first two seasons of Lucifer, a mix of comedy and drama starring Welsh actor Tom Ellis as the fallen angel exploring Los Angeles and helping a LAPD detective solve crimes. The series is based on a character as featured in a DC Comics' Vertigo title.

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Michael Walbrecht, vice-president of public affairs for Warner Bros. Entertainment, declined comment on the move on Sunday.

Phil Klapwyk, a business representative for IATSE Local 891 representing production-sector workers, confirmed the move on Sunday, saying it will cost about 200 B.C. jobs. The show has been renewed for a third season, which will now be produced in California.

"It's a shame for the crew because they loved working on it," Mr. Klapwyk said in an interview. "I've talked to several crew members who had a great experience doing Lucifer here, and they're sad to see it go."

He said the series has two more episodes to film, equalling about four weeks of work for B.C. staff, before it shuts down its production in Vancouver.

Given the boom in the sector, Mr. Klapwyk said he does not expect the affected crew will be unemployed for long. "It's not like, all of a sudden the mill shut down, and there's no work left in town," he said. "It might be rough for a couple of weeks for these guys to find a job to land on, but I am confident they will."

Still, the situation is a bit of a step back in an industry employing about 20,000 workers, many in Hollywood-financed production, in the province that has had its up and downs but is now in a highly touted boom.

B.C. jobs minister Shirley Bond has tweeted on victories for the sector, noting, for example the decision to move the series Supergirl from production in Los Angeles to Vancouver last year.

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And it's all a reminder that Vancouver, which benefits from its crews being in the same time zone as Hollywood, as well as provincial tax incentives and a Canadian dollar that's lower than its U.S. counterpart, is in a competition for production with other jurisdictions.

The California Film Commission has been offering tax credits, particularly to series that are relocating to the state, and Mr. Klapwyk said it was his understanding that those incentives had been appealing to Lucifer's producers.

Through a spokesperson, the commission on Sunday declined comment on Lucifer, but said series qualifying for state tax incentives would be announced later in March.

David Shepheard, the Vancouver film commissioner, played down the impact of the situation, but said he regretted the loss of the series.

"In my experience, it's common for TV series to come and go for any number of reasons. As Lucifer is set in Los Angeles, it's understandable but, of course, disappointing if the production decides to relocate there," he said in a statement.

"Given how in demand Vancouver and local crews have been, I don't see the move negatively impacting the industry. Empty studio space and crew will likely be snapped up by one of the new or returning productions."

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He said the series may be leaving for reasons that include a change in direction and vision, and a desire to get away from the logistical challenges of essentially making Vancouver locations look like Los Angeles.

Prem Gill, the head of the Creative BC agency that nurtures the production sector in B.C., said in a statement that the number of productions in B.C. continues to grow.

"Studios have a lot of variables to consider when deciding location; it does not change the viability and appeal of Vancouver for filming."

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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