No one ever checks in but Bates Motel benefits Langley

Bates Motel
Michelle Graham of Chilliwack and Kevin Coulter of Ontario came to Aldergrove specifically to see the Bate Motel site. – Ronda Payne/Langley Advance

Of all the possible locations in the Lower Mainland, producers of Bates Motel chose a lightly sloped parcel of land across from the Langley Transfer Station in Aldergrove to set up shop.

According to Ken Brooker, one of the two location managers for the show now filming its third season (set to begin airing on A&E network on March 9), location scouts would have looked for the ideal spot for months prior to the show’s first season two years ago.

“An application was made to the Township [of Langley] for a lease,” Brooker said. “It was disused land… it just seemed like a good fit.”

In addition to the Aldergrove location, crews work all over the Lower Mainland filming scenes for the spooky prequel series which centres around a teenaged Norman Bates who was introduced to movie-goers in 1960 by Alfred Hitchcock in the Psycho thriller movie.

While the motel built on 272nd Street for the filming is somewhat non-descript except for the name, it’s the house on the hill that looms and adds tone to the show.

“We benefit from the time of year,” Brooker said. “Our show is a moody show. The Pacific Northwest is complementary. We don’t pack up just because it’s raining.”

Mark Freeborn, the production designer during all three seasons, is responsible for creating the ominous look of the sets. The weather definitely helps with his job.

“They play in the dark and they love the fog. They are completely in love with the weather,” Val Gafka, Langley Township’s senior manager of corporate administration, said of the crew.

“What they’ll do is find a space that offers them many perviews [shooting possibilities],” Gafka said of those who film locally. “We’ve noticed that quite a lot over the past couple of years… they stick to one or two primary areas. It actually minimizes the traffic within our community.”

Filming for the show takes place in the Township of Langley, Vancouver, and beyond with four or more locations being used in one day of shooting.

“The Township has been very, very good… quite progressive, in how they approach film,” Brooker said.

From the Township’s side, Gafka had positive things to say about the experience with the crew from Bates Motel.

“There’s just so many different TV series [being filmed] here locally,” she said. “It definitely instills pride in the community. It has many different economic impacts, but the aspect of civic pride is definitely there.”

“They’ve always been really interested in finding middle ground or solutions,” added Brooker of the Township, noting that Gafka is one of the key people who makes the process work smoothly.

“The biggest deal is that people are willing to work with you to make your products,” he said. “We rely on people’s support to do what we do.”

In addition to the lot across from the transfer station, the production also leases a privately owned vacant lot nearby to allow for the trailers for hair, makeup, and the actors. Catering facilities are set up nearby with shuttles that run talent back and forth between locations.

“It’s one of the things we do to keep people happy,” said Brooker.

It isn’t easy keeping all of the action on a filming site coordinated. It can take upwards of seven days to prepare for a shoot, a single episode takes eight days of shooting, and there are 10 episodes per season. Including those on the construction team, it can take up to 50 people to get a set ready.

“Before a camera is even turned on,” Brooker noted.

Daily there are close to 100 people on the production site with vehicles and equipment. Despite the fact that the lot is secure, very little equipment stays on the site.

“It’s a very labour intensive industry,” said Brooker.

Gafka noted that the positive impacts from Bates Motel could be both diverse and significant to the Langley area.

“From an environmental perspective… they are very clean… they leave the area in a very clean state,” Gafka said.

In addition to respect for the environment, benefits of local filming like Bates Motel comes in the form of local purchases.

“It runs from procuring local services and local goods to hiring and retaining local talent,” Gafka said.

Bates Motel production assistant, Leanne Clerihue can attest to that. “The day that it snowed, I think I bought three pairs of gloves from Mark’s Work Warehouse,” she noted.

“It’s all these people [who work on the site], driving through [Langley] buying gas on the way, stopping to get gum…” Ken added of how the crew delivers an economic benefit.

Then, there are the people who come to Aldergrove simply because Bates Motel is filmed here.

“Film tourism in general is something we see not all too often,” said Gafka. “But there is a general interest in the film industry.”

This interest was apparent when two fans were spotted on the side of the road, watching the filming preparations at the main Bates Motel site. Michelle Graham from Chilliwack brought her friend Kevin Coulter from Ontario to Aldergrove, specifically to see the site.

“I love it,” Graham said of the Bates Motel series.

“We were just giddy [when we saw the site],” she added.

“I’m going to make my friends jealous,” added Coulter.

Brooker took a picture of the pair with the iconic house in the background.

The crew are kind to visiting fans, and allow them to watch from the east side of the street so long as they don’t get in the way of filming or cause trouble.

It’s easy for the crew to identify who belongs on the site and who doesn’t.

“We’re like a family,” Brooker noted. “We’ve all been working together day in day out.”

“You get to know faces pretty quickly,” added Clerihue.

Although the film industry involves numerous people, many of those working on Bates Motel are local, according to Brooker.

“We’re not just from Vancouver,” he said. “We’re your friends and your neighbours from all over the Lower Mainland.”

One of those individuals is John Scavarda who works grips and has been an Aldergrove resident for about 15 years.

“It’s awesome, I don’t have the commute or the bridge [tolls],” Scavarda said of working just 10 minutes from home.

“I have extra time to sleep, I get to see my family. There are tonnes of benefits for me.”

A side benefit for Scavarda is being able to bring his family out to the set when it is permitted.

“Quite a few people [working on Bates Motel] live out here,” he added.

For the Township, it seems as though having the production in Aldergrove is a great arrangement.

“They are an excellent crew. They have some really skilled people working on that crew,” Gafka said. “They also have 24/7 security on the site.”

While the Langley Advance was offered access behind the scenes at the site of Bates Motel, no story line details were revealed, to ensure the show’s progression remains a mystery.

Bates Motel
Those who watch Bates Motel on TV will recognize the office where Ken Brooker, location manager, and Leanne Clerihue, production assistant, stand behind the desk. – Ronda Payne/Langley Advance

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