Why some of Manitoba Hydro’s buildings make it into movies

It’s an action movie with an unlikely star: Bob Odenkirk, recently showered with praise for his dramatic performance in Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul, still hits all the right action-movie notes. There are car chases, meticulously choreographed fight scenes, and epic shootouts — this is a film that would feel right at home in the John Wick universe.

The film is Nobody — a high-octane action movie filmed in Winnipeg in 2019 — and some of the shots in its factory last-stand firefight sequence were shot at 820 Taylor Avenue, the former head office of Manitoba Hydro.

It wasn’t the only movie, or show, shot at one of our locations.

As the film industry in Manitoba heats up again post-pandemic, a diverse range of productions, from local to Hollywood, are being filmed in current and former Manitoba Hydro facilities. The utility owns a warehouse building in Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District that has become a hotspot for filming. The Elevator Game production (see video above) spent about $20,000 on permanent bathroom, plumbing, wiring, and internet-related upgrades, among others, and now 55 Princess Avenue — a former utility-owned appliance store in the early days of electrification — is now in high demand.

“There’s been times where it’s almost been double-booked,” said Jackie Britton, who handled the interface with production companies prior to retiring in December 2022. “You have to be very careful in the scheduling, because one production is going in and another is going out.”

Coordinating these requests fall to the Community Investment team at Manitoba Hydro because the bulk of rental fees the utility charges go to local charities. And since the Manitoba film industry has grown in the last few years — so much so that it precipitated a new flight route directly from Los Angeles to Winnipeg — a lot more Manitoba Hydro buildings are likely to play starring roles in the future.

From Hydro’s perspective, it’s a win-win-win situation: old, disused buildings get a new lease on life in film productions; using Manitoba Hydro buildings brings jobs to the local film industry and Manitoba economy; and the fees to use Manitoba Hydro buildings go to charities. As the corporation looks to become the Manitoba Hydro of the future, making the fullest use of its assets — whether for electrical generation, reliability enhancements, or getting new use out of its old buildings — will be a critical part of its long-term planning.

Manitoba Hydro: coming soon to a theatre near you.