It was a simple, passing reference meant to add a little bit of color to a review I wrote about the miniseries “Tin Man.”
All I wanted to do was mention that I had been interested in seeing this miniseries since we were first shown some scenes of it while sitting in Ming’s Chamber on the set of “Flash Gordon.” Trying to describe the location of something in passing is not easy, especially when you’re catering to an international readership as Airlock Alpha does. And many times, because of how busy all of us are here, we are writing stories, reviews and columns as quickly as we can.
So, when I described where the studios for “Flash Gordon” were, I described it simply as being “just north of the American border near Washington state.”
Apparently, saying something like that — as correct as it may be — is considered offensive to some. But I really have to scratch my head over this apparent insecurity from some of our Canadian friends.
One blogger called me a “hoser” because I didn’t simply say “Vancouver.” By using the United States as a reference point, I somehow downplayed Vancouver’s significance in the filming world. Don’t get me wrong, I understand where the blogger is coming from — Canadian productions are not well received in the typical Hollywood filming community — but at the same time, there are battles to pick and battles not to pick.
I didn’t describe the location of “Flash Gordon” filming in Vancouver because, to be honest, it was not in Vancouver. The day we went to the “Flash Gordon” sets on the SciFi Channel Digital Press Tour last June, we loaded a bus and drove almost an hour toward the American border.
Sure, Vancouver is pretty close to the American border, but it’s still a good 30 miles (and that’s a bee-line to the border, not the actual distance taking roads). The former horse stables that make up the studios for “Flash Gordon” are actually in a town known as Aldergrove, B.C. It is in the Vancouver “regional district,” but it’s a good 30 miles from Vancouver, and literally just about four or five miles from the American border.
While our Canadian readers may be familiar with Aldergrove and its close proximity to Vancouver, many of our international readers — including many of our American readers — are not. And I, as a writer, tend to use nearest geographic points of reference when trying to describe a small area rather than the largest geographic references.
I guess some of that stems from growing up in a very small town in northern Pennsylvania. If you live in that part of the state, I can say “Johnsonburg,” and there’s a good chance you’ll know what I’m talking about. But if you’re not from that area, you just saw a name that means very little — if anything — to you. Since you’re not familiar, and I don’t want to bog down a conversation with its exact location (since it isn’t the point), there’s a few ways I can describe it to you.
1. It’s a small town near Erie.
2. It’s a small town near Pittsburgh.
3. It’s a small town near Buffalo.
4. It’s a small town just south of the New York state line.
Now, Erie is about 138 miles from Johnsonburg. Pittsburgh is 122 miles. Buffalo is 115 miles. All of them are cities that most people are familiar with, and are large enough to be good reference points.
However, in my mind, I would choose No. 4: It’s a small town just south of the New York state line because it’s just less than 40 miles from the border. If you are someone fighting for recognition of Pennsylvania over New York as some are looking to get recognition of Canada over the United States, people in my home state would be angry with me because I used New York as a reference point rather than saying it was within Pennsylvania.
Everyone has their own way of describing geographic points, and I know there are some who would choose one of the first three options. But just because I choose the fourth — because it’s the closest reference point — doesn’t mean I have something against Pennsylvania and I favor New York more. Hell, I love my home state. If it didn’t snow 364 of 365 days each year there, I would probably still be there instead of sitting in the warmth of the Florida sun.
I can’t say that this Canadian insecurity is out of control or even misplaced. There really is an attitude out there — even in our own American filming industry — that jobs should stay in the United States, and not be exported to Canada. I am not going to get into that fight, because I think there’s enough work to spread around.
Canada has been very aggressive in the last couple of decades in providing strong incentives to bring filming projects across the border, and those are efforts that have worked. When we were in Vancouver (and its surrounding municipalities) we saw a tremendous amount of filming taking place, and there is a lot of talent that can be found there. In fact, a Airlock Alpha writer — Marx Pyle — also is a budding filmmaker in Vancouver, and we welcomed him (and his wife) to our writing staff not just because he’s a good writer that we wanted to have onboard, but because we have a tremendous amount of respect for the filming that takes place in Canada, and we probably more than any other entertainment news site out there mention Canada as much as we can, especially since many of the shows we cover here are filmed in and around Vancouver, or Toronto, or other great Canadian cities.
Do those defending the Canadian film industry have a beef with American-based media? You bet. I think that country’s film industry has not received the positive attention it deserves.
At the same time, those who do recognize the Canadian film industry should at least be credited for doing so. I used a geographic reference point that was simply really close, and in a way I felt I could describe to a global reading audience in just a few short words. The fact is, filming takes place in Canada, and trust me, there is not a single person on this staff that will ever try to forget or even deny that.
Michael Hinman is the founder and site coordinator of Airlock Alpha, writing out of Tampa, Fla. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.