A self-led guided walk of TV shows and Movie filming locations at UBC Vancouver campus.
Image: UBC Brand & Marketing —

Lights, Camera, Action: A Self-guided Tour to Filming at UBC

Updated: June 28, 2021.

When following this self-guided tour, please follow all provincial public health guidelines and UBC COVID-19 guidelines.

Introduction

To begin, we acknowledge that the University of British Columbia (UBC) Point Grey Vancouver campus is situated on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people. The land has always been a place of learning for the Musqueam, who for millennia have passed on their culture, history and traditions from one generation to the next on this site.

Welcome to the Lights, Camera, Action walk! In this self-guided walking tour, you’ll get a behind the scene look at how filming happens on campus and how some of your favourite campus locations were featured in popular films and TV shows.

UBC is the 3rd most popular filming location in Canada as reported in an article by Daily Hive, and the 9th most popular filming location in the world, according to a recent estimate by Go Compare. This is compared with other iconic spots in both New York and LA including Central Park, Venice Beach, Times Square, and Coney Island.

Before you start:

This route takes you through some of the most popular outdoor filming locations on campus, which include Main Mall, Cecil Green Park House, the Chan Centre and more.

The productions featured in this guide were mostly filmed outside. To minimize disruptions to students, faculty and staff that work in the buildings, we kindly ask visitors to refrain from entering the buildings. 

# of attractions: 11 | Duration: 1 hour

Accessibility considerations:

  • When moving from the Museum of Anthropology to the UBC Rose Garden, there is an elevator available in the Rose Garden Parkade. Accessible parking stalls are available on level five.

Stops featured in this walk:

  • Martha Piper Plaza
  • Chemistry Building 
  • Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKB)
  • Buchanan Tower
  • Buchanan Building
  • Main Mall
  • Chan Centre of the Performing Arts
  • Cecil Green Park House
  • Museum of Anthropology (MOA)
  • Leon and Thea Koerner University Centre
  • UBC Rose Garden

Plan your route using our film tour map. 

Lights, Camera, Action — Let’s get walking!

1. Martha Piper Plaza

Productions filmed at this location:

  • Legends of Tomorrow (2016 - Present)
  • The Butterfly Effect (2004)
  • 88 Minutes (2007)
  • The Company You Keep (2012)
  • Legion (2017 - 2019)

Located at the intersection of University Boulevard and Main Mall, two of UBC’s busiest intersections, lies one of UBC’s most iconic locations, the Martha Piper Plaza, named in honour of UBC’s 11th president, Martha Piper. At every hour from :50 to :00, the UBC fountain comes to life and pulses water out to represent the busy pulse of students crossing campus to their classes. In fact, the UBC fountain is one way for students to know if they are running late to class!

On a typical day, the Plaza is a social hub for students to gather; while on numerous occasions, it's been the backdrop for many productions:

In The Butterfly Effect, Ashton Kutcher’s character rides a bike through the Plaza set as a University path.

In season 1, episode 1 of Legion, David wanders past a fountain, which is the famous UBC Fountain found at the Plaza.

In the show Legends of Tomorrow (season 1, episode 2), Martha Piper Plaza is disguised as a 1942 version of New York City's Times Square (see photos). In the episode, the team makes their plan to save Einstein.

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Martha Piper Plaza in real life featuring “the pulse”. (Photo: Vancouver Fountains)

 

Martha Piper Plaza set as New York City with the help of CGI in the DC show Legends of Tomorrow(Photo: YVRShoots)

2. Chemistry Building

Productions filmed at this location:

  • Legends of Tomorrow (2016 - Present)
  • Agent X (2015)
  • Fringe (2008 - 2013)
  • Supernatural (2005 - 2020)
  • The Company You Keep (2012)
  • The Age of Adaline (2015)
  • Prison Break (2005 - 2017)
  • Psych (2006 - 2014)
  • Night at the Museum (2006)

The Centre Wing of the Chemistry Building (also known as the D-Block) is one of the three original permanent buildings built on UBC’s Point Grey campus. Initial construction began in 1914 but halted when Canada joined World War I.

In 1922, a student-led “Build the University” movement emerged as an effort to push for the building of new facilities and classrooms for the university. This led to the Great Trek, where approximately 1200 students marched from downtown Vancouver to campus, gathering at the unfinished Chemistry Building.

The building’s historic architecture makes it a popular film location for productions that are looking for an old-fashioned feel.

In the TV series Supernatural, the exterior of the Chemistry Building became the Department of Anthropology in season 1, where the brothers take the bones they found outside Oasis Plains to an anthropology professor for identification (see photos).

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Productions seem to favour using the doors of the southwest entrance of the building facing Main Mall. (Photo: Learning Spaces)

 

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The exterior of the Chemistry building as the Department of Anthropology in the TV show Supernatural(Photo: MovieMaps.org)

The Chemistry Building is often disguised as other universities, some include:

  • Columbia University in Legends of Tomorrow
  • Georgetown University in Agent X
  • The Kresge Building at Harvard University in the second season of the TV show Fringe, where Walter has his lab (see photos)
  • University of Michigan Law School and the University of Chicago in the movie The Company You Keep (see photos)

The interior of the Chemistry Building in real life. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

 

The interior of the Chemistry Building as the University of Chicago in the film The Company You Keep(Photo: TCYK)

3. Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKB)

Productions filmed at this location:

  • The Magicians (2015-2020)
  • Charmed (1998 - 2006)
  • Fringe (2008 - 2013)
  • Hellcats (2010 - 2011)
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
  • The Age of Adaline (2015)

Originally named UBC Main Library when initially constructed in 1925, the building underwent a massive renovation and expansion in 2002 and became the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKB). With a large library, study areas, and a café, Irving is a well-loved study spot on campus. There is also a super cool state-of-the-art robotic book retrieval system, the first of its kind in Canada. 

The building is featured in the pilot episode of Charmed, as the department of genetics, where a protest happens outside. 

It has also been featured in Hellcats, a cheerleading drama TV series starring Ashley Tisdale and Aly Michalka. UBC is depicted as the fictional American college, Lancer University, and there is a scene where cheerleaders are practicing on the grass outside of Irving. 

It’s also used in TV show Fringe as the Boston Federal Building, the Massachusetts Port Authority, and the exterior is used as establishing shots of Harvard University.

Irving also plays Brakebills University in the show The Magicians (see photo). UBC has been featured as so many different Universities, except itself!

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IKB in real life. (Photo: Gilroy Stained Glass)

 

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IKB as Brakebills University in The Magicians(Photo: Universal Cable Productions)

4. Buchanan Tower

Productions filmed at this location:

  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Buchanan Tower was built in the 1970s as part of the brutalist movement. Brutalist-style buildings may look rigid with their distinct massive, monolithic block-like appearance, but that’s part of their charm.

Due to its striking image, Buchanan Tower became one of the filming sites for the movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This Marvel movie is the fourth film in the X-Men franchise and stars Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Along with filming at Lord Byng Secondary and Stanley Park, the exterior of Buchanan Tower emulated a high-rise in Lagos, Nigeria, where Team X raided the compound to acquire a mysterious meteorite (see photo).

Buchanan Tower in real life. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Buchanan Tower as a high-rise in Lagos, Nigeria in X-Men Origins: Wolverine(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

Buchanan Tower is one of the three central filming locations for The Exorcism of Emily Rose, along with the Kenny Building which served as the dorm, and the MacMillan building as the courthouse.

5. Buchanan Building

Productions filmed at this location:

  • Legion (2017 - 2019)
  • The Magicians (2015-2020)
  • The 4400 (2004 - 2007)
  • Supernatural (2005 - 2020)
  • Fringe (2008 - 2013)

The 5-wing complex of Buchanan was built in 1958-1960 to accommodate a growing student population and renewed interest in the liberal arts (the number of students tripled after World War II). Today, Buchanan is the main hub for the Faculty of Arts.

Although some students lament about how unattractive or outdated the Buchanan buildings are, many architecture and design enthusiasts consider it to be a fine example of mid-century Modernist architecture.

The Buchanan Block D building is where David is seen in the pilot episode sitting outside in the TV show Legion. FX’s Legion is part of the X-Men universe and tells the story of a mutant called David Haller “Legion”, played by Dan Stevens. The show also stars Aubrey Plaza, Rachel Keller and Jean Smart.

The same canopy was used in the pilot episode for another TV show called The Magicians, a Syfy fantasy series adapted from a novel. (see photos)

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Buchanan Buildings and Courtyard in real life. (Photo: Infrastructure Development UBC)

 

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Buchanan Building C and Buchanan Tower in the background with Buchanan Courtyard in the forefront in the TV show The Magicians(Photo: Universal Cable Studios)

6. Main Mall

Productions filmed at this location:

  • Tomorrowland (2015)
  • Smallville (2001 – 2011)
  • The Man in the High Castle (2015 – 2019)

Main Mall is a strip that stretches from Flagpole Plaza at Crescent Road to Agronomy Road. Did you know that there used to be a bus stop on Main Mall? It was situated on the west side of Main Mall across from the Science Building (now known as the Chemistry building) and south of the Mathematics Annex.

In 2009, UBC's Public Realm Plan converted Main Mall to a bicycle- and pedestrian-only area, where motor vehicle traffic is restricted, making it one of UBC’s most used pedestrian walkways that we know today.

Main Mall was one of the sets for the Amazon TV show, The Man in the High Castle, which recounts a fictional alternative to World War Two, imagining what the world would have been like if Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany had won the war. 

This pathway was the only location used on campus to film George Clooney’s Tomorrowland, where it became the site of the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. The only other UBC location used was Robson Square downtown, which was used to play a square located in the bustling city of Tokyo. (see photos)

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The intersection between Main Mall & Crescent Road in real life. 

 

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The intersection between Main Mall & Crescent Road transformed into the 1964  New York World's Fair in Tomorrowland. (Photo: MovieStillsDB

7. Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

Productions filmed at this location:

  • Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
  • Catwoman (2007)
  • Lucifer (2016)
  • Legends of Tomorrow (2016 - Present)
  • Battlestar Galactica (2004 - 2009)
  • iZombie (2015 - 2019)
  • Psych (2006 - 2014)
  • Stargate Atlantis (2004 – 2009)
  • Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
  • If I Stay (2014)

The Chan Centre was built as a locale for performing arts from classical, jazz, theatre, and opera to world music. Since its opening in 1997, the Chan Centre has earned an international reputation for its striking design, stellar acoustics and exceptional programming. The Chan Centre is part of UBC’s Arts and Culture District, and hosts rehearsals and performances by the UBC School of Music and the UBC Department of Theatre and Film throughout the year. 

This location is mostly filmed for its interior, notably in Fifty Shades of Grey starring A-list stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. UBC was the backdrop of Washington State University in the scene of Anastasia’s graduation ceremony.

Famously in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the Telus Studio Theatre was disguised as a club where the men of the Fantastic Four have a bachelor party. (see photos)

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The Telus Studio in real life. (Photo: Chan Centre)

 

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The Telus Studio disguised as a club in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer(Photo: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Dune Entertainment)

Halle Berry walked the halls in her catsuit when the Telus Studio Theatre became a futuristic bar in Catwoman.

In the Netflix TV Show Lucifer, based on the DC Comics character about a fallen angel who becomes dissatisfied with his life in hell, the Chan Centre is used as an auction where Lucifer’s wings are being sold.

The interiors and exteriors of the site are used in Battlestar Galactica as the electoral meeting for the Quorum of Twelve (season 1, episode 11 “Colonial Day”).

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Chan Centre exterior in real life during the day. (Photo: Chan Centre)

 

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Chan Centre exterior as a lab in iZombie(Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment)

8. Cecil Green Park House

Productions filmed at this location:

  • Riverdale (2017 – Present)
  • Charmed (1998 - 2006)
  • Arrow (2012 – 2020)
  • The Flash (2014 – Present)
  • Supergirl (2015 – 2021)
  • The X-Files (1993 – 2002)
  • Good Luck Chuck (2007)

Cecil Green Park was originally named Kanakla, a West Coast native word meaning “house on the cliff”, in reference to its location on the tip of Point Grey Cliffs. Ida and Cecil Green (a co-founder of Texas instruments who studied at UBC between 1918 and 1921) purchased the house, refurbished it, and eventually donated it to UBC. The house was intended to be used as a town-and-gown centre, where both on- and off-campus groups could hold events.

Today, weddings, meetings and events, and even filming take place at this location.

The show Riverdale is a TV drama adaptation of the Archie comics starring KJ Apa, Cole Sprouse, Lili Reinhart and Camila Mendes. While filming occurred all around Vancouver, the pilot episode was filmed partly in Cecil Green, where it was disguised as the infamous Blossom Mansion. This is where Cheryl Blossom invites Betty, Veronica, and Archie to her after-party where she attempts to cause havoc between the trio. (see photos)

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The interior of Cecil Green Park House in real life. (Photo: Wikimapia)

 

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The interior of Cecil Green Park House as Blossom Mansion in Riverdale. (Photo: Riverdale Ep.1, S1, 10:13, Netflix)

In The Flash, this building was used as a wedding venue as well as Santini Mansion.

In Arrow, it’s used as Darhk’s House where Lonni Machin takes Darhk’s wife and daughter hostage, and Team Arrow has to rescue them.

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Exterior of Cecil Green Park house in real life. (Photo: Janice S.)

 

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Exterior of Cecil Green Park House as Santini Mansion in The Flash(Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment)

On a lighter note, Jessica Alba and Dane Cook filmed a wedding scene at Cecil Green for the romantic comedy Good Luck Chuck.

9. Museum of Anthropology

Productions filmed at this location:

  • Intersection (1994)
  • Masterminds (1997)
  • The 6th Day (2000)
  • Passengers (2008)

The Museum of Anthropology (MOA) was initially established in 1949 as a department within UBC’s Faculty of Arts. Canadian architect Arthur Erickson designed the award-winning concrete and glass structure and later on, Cornelia Oberlander completed the landscaping of the grounds. 

MOA is one of Canada’s largest teaching museums with faculty and staff teaching courses in museum studies, museum education, and conservation as well as Indigenous and world art. 

A number of films have been shot at the Museum of Anthropology, such as Intersection starring Richard Gere, Lolita Davidovich, Sharon Stone and Martin Landau.

The building was also used as a hospital in the movie The 6th Day, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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The Museum of Anthropology in real life. (Photo: Tumblr)

 

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Anne Hathaway and Andre Braugher in a scene from Passengers. (Photo: MovieStillsDB)

10. Leon and Thea Koerner University Centre

Productions filmed at this location:

  • Fantastic Four (2005)
  • The Magicians (2015-2020)
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

The Leon and Thea Koerner University Centre was designed by architecture professor, Fred Lasserre, and opened in 1959 as UBC’s new Faculty Club. The building underwent several expansions over the years, and the upper level now houses the Sage Bistro, a high-end restaurant, and the lower level houses classrooms and a small cafe.

The first Fantastic Four movie starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon and Kerry Washington used the Leon and Thea Koerner University Centre at UBC as the recovery centre after the space station incident.

In the show, The Magicians, Koerner University Centre appears in nine episodes in the series as the Brakebills Infirmary.

The Day the Earth Stood Still, a 2008 sci-fi thriller starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly, also used the building's interiors as a command centre. (see photos)

 

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Leon and Thea Koerner University Centre in real life. (Photo: UBC Properties Trust)

 

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Leon and Thea Koerner University Centre in The Day the Earth Stood Still(Photo: MovieMaps.org)

11. UBC Rose Garden

Productions filmed at this location:

  • Battlestar Galactica (2004 - 2009)
  • Altered Carbon (2018 – 2020)
  • Caprica (2010)

At the northern edge of campus is the UBC Rose Garden, which houses hybrid tea and floribunda roses that typically bloom from June through September. The garden provides a gorgeous backdrop for wedding photos and student graduation photos and is also a filming destination for two popular science fiction shows.

The first being Battlestar Galactica, where the garden is used in the same episode as the Chan Centre, “Colonial Day”. While the Chan Centre is where the electoral meeting for the Quorum of Twelve is held, the garden was used for some short scenes where reporters hung out before the meeting. (see photos)

The second is Altered Carbon, a newer Netflix series that is set 300 years in the future. The Rose Garden is used as part of the Bancroft estate in the pilot episode. (see photos)

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The UBC Rose Garden in real life. (Photo: Gabriel Lascu)

 

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Computer-generated imagery (CGI) used on the UBC Rose Garden to make it the Bancroft estate in Altered Carbon. (Photo: Netflix)

 

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The UBC Rose Garden in Battlestar Galactica episode “Colonial Day”. (Photo: Universal Television)

How does filming happen at UBC?

Commercial, student, and UBC research filming and photography requests are managed by UBC Campus and Community Planning’s Film and Events Office. Upon receiving a filming or photography request, staff read the script or review storyboards to ensure alignment with the use of campus and UBC property. The Film & Events Office liaises with the production on all details of the filming request, including filming dates, times and locations, and stakeholders that could be impacted by the proposed filming. The Film and Events Office also manages the necessary permits to ensure production is seamless and undisruptive to regular university activities and the campus community.

Commercial filming and photography activity bring major benefits to the University. In addition to cost-recovery for departments such as Building Operations, UBC Parking, and Campus Security from providing services to productions, revenue generated from commercial filming and photography goes back into campus. UBC Theatre and Film receives a portion of the revenues to reinvest back into specialized gear like lights, green screens, and cameras. Revenue is also allocated to Community Development for animating outdoor spaces on campus and to UBC Central finance. Productions are encouraged to involve UBC film students from the Department of Theatre & Film as observers while filming on campus.

Thanks for joining us on the tour! This film tour was put together with the help of many sources.