Vancouver teacher compiles local movie history on YouTube

Like many people, Chris Banks taught himself a new skill when things went on lockdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now he’s applying that skill – video editing – to a project he’s had in mind for years: a visual history of Vancouver on film.

“No one had done it before,” he said. “I thought it would be something people would enjoy.”

Banks, a high school history and social studies teacher, cut compilations of scenes from movies shot in Vancouver and posted them on his YouTube channel.

The videos are set to music and intertwine facts about the locations shown in the films with captured footage from bygone eras.

“The idea is kind of like you’re learning the movie timeline of Vancouver, but also a bit of the history of the city as a whole,” Banks said.

He said there were “a lot of different factors” that led him to the project, including his interest in films and local history.

“As a child, I didn’t really know what movies were made in Vancouver, so I would rewatch some of them as an adult and notice all these places,” he said. “I just thought it was cool. Our city is kind of hidden from us in the movies, because it’s almost always depicted as another city.”

Banks also cited the 2003 documentary Los Angeles plays on its own and Tony Zhou’s 2015 video essay Vancouver never plays alone – which touches on the same theme of Vancouver hidden from the public in a film – as sources of inspiration.

The compilations published by Banks are less about answering the question of why Vancouver is so often disguised from the public, and more about compiling and showcasing the occasions when it shines.

“The whole project is basically about finding Easter eggs,” Banks said, adding that it’s hard to pick a favorite discovery he’s made since embarking on the project.

The discovery that is most personally relevant to him is easier to spot. During his research, Banks discovered that the 1980 film From nowheredirected by Dennis Hopper, featured several scenes at the Ridge Theater and the bowling alley, which has since been demolished.

“I just thought it was great, because this place that was really close to my heart as a kid — I saw my first movie there — was filmed,” Banks said.

He said he hopes other lifelong Vancouverites will see monuments to their past in his videos.

“I hope people other than long-time Vancouverites enjoy it, but I think the audience is mostly people who may have grown up here and would remember some of those things that maybe don’t exist- be more,” Banks said.

With files from Lisa Steacy of CTV News Vancouver

Gladys T. Hensley