Godzilla may not actually have been roaming through the desert landscape east of Cache Creek, but thanks to some filmmaking magic he will probably be appearing there in the upcoming Apple+ TV series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, which debuts on Nov. 17.
The 10-part series, which stars Kurt Russell, features the legendary Godzilla, who first appeared in a 1954 film that starred New Westminster’s own Raymond Burr. The new series reveals that Godzilla, along with other monsters, is linked to a mysterious organization known as Monarch, and follows one family’s search to uncover these hidden links.
Terri Hadwin, film commissioner for the Thompson-Nicola Film Commission, says that filming for the series took place near the McAbee Fossil Beds east of Cache Creek in August 2022.
“The crew was here for three weeks in total, including prep time, filming, and wrapping. We take up almost all of episode three, so that was a pretty big chunk of time spent on this TV series in our area.”
The area is a popular one for filmmakers looking for an unspoiled desert landscape, and has previously featured in TV series and films including The X-Files, Penny Dreadful, and The Maze Runner.
“It’s not an incredibly developed area, plus it’s clearly a desert landscape,” says Hadwin, explaining the site’s appeal. “You have a cliff face that offers depth and feel, plus plateaus that make it look like a vast, barren land, all within a 15-minute-drive radius on one property. It doesn’t look like one area, as it has two different looks, which means it can be used as two different spots.”
She also notes that because the site is already an established filming location, it has word of mouth in the industry.
“It’s been utilized for film. Working with brand new locations can be challenging, so filmmakers like it when filming has happened in a spot and agreements are in place.
“In this situation the location manager had heard about this possible spot in B.C. that could be utilized. A lot of other material was being filmed in B.C., so staying all in one province is the best idea rather than driving to, say, Arizona.”
Hadwin says that in a case like this the production company would approach the film commission and say they were interested in filming there.
“They’d ask if we can do scouting. The film commission, being knowledgeable, can take people on a tour. The location manager uses photos and their opinion to say if [the location] can be used, then the director of photography looks it over, and we get filming location agreements in place.”
While the site of the “circus” (film camp) was clearly visible from Highway 1 during August 2022, and there were numerous reported sightings of Kurt Russell in and around Cache Creek, the film commission was unable to comment about the production until recently. Hadwin explains that they’re not supposed to talk about productions as they’re happening, for good reasons.
“Sometimes people get excited, and want to pop by the set to see the stars, which interrupts workflow. You can get people driving there who shouldn’t be there, making noise while the cameras are rolling. You wouldn’t show up at a construction site unannounced. People are at work, so it’s important to keep things as secretive as we possibly can.
“As a film commission we’re meant to support film projects that come into the area as much as we can, so we’re brought into the loop early on, but we need to keep things on the down-low, as it’s not our job to promote the project until the filmmakers are good and ready. When they market it, then we get the message out that the project is ready to be consumed.”
Hadwin adds that the economic impact a major production like Monarch has on the local economy is “pretty substantial”.
“The talent [actors] doesn’t necessarily stay in Cache Creek, but a lot of the crew would, because people working long days might end up staying in hotels in the area. When I visited the set I could see 40 or 50 boxes of pizza from Anie’s Pizza [in Cache Creek] that were purchased to feed the cast and crew, so it has an economic spin-off for sure. There are definitely dollars that are staying in the area.”
The recent Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes have had an impact on the industry in B.C., but Hadwin is cautiously optimistic that with both strikes now resolved, things will hit the ground running.
“A new possible wrench in the works in Vancouver — but not necessarily in our region — is new legislation around short term rental housing, which is highly utilized in Vancouver by the film industry. With that now not as much of a viable option as it once was, there aren’t enough hotel rooms in Vancouver to support the film industry. We could see over-spill into the Interior, or we could see B.C. filming not as popular as it once was.
“I’m hoping it’s the former, and that we’ll see benefits from it and film production still coming into B.C., but only time will tell.”