Gravity Productions, which was in the area for several weeks filming an episode of The Twilight Zone, has departed to put the finishing touches on the show—which will air on CBS later this year—but the company has left a visible legacy for the Village of Ashcroft.
Kris Kadzielski, the production’s location manager, told Ashcroft council in January 2020 that the company wanted to leave something tangible for the Village when filming was complete. Village staff provided a “wish list” of items, and before he left, Kadzielski presented the Village with a cheque for $5,000 for the purchase of shade sails for the Ashcroft pool; something staff there have been asking for.
“We wanted to leave the community better than we found it,” says Kadzielski. “We want to be able to come back with any other project in future.
“The legacy for the Village is something nice that we can do for the community, and the shade sails seemed the way to go. We think it’s a great cause for the public and for the lifeguards. I saw a sample of what they will look like, and think it’s awesome.”
Kadzielski is no stranger to to Ashcroft and the area. He was previously here in 2011 with the feature film Afghan Luke and in 2015 for the premiere episode of the reboot of the TV show The X-Files. That episode famously showed a spaceship that had crashed in the desert, which was filmed on the Ashcroft Reserve.
When it came time to look for a location for an episode of Twilight Zone set in a small town, Kadzielski says the company looked at different areas but was sold on Ashcroft from the get-go. “It stuck in our minds.”
He says that the geography of the town—especially the “hero street” (4th Street between Railway and Brink)—worked within the storyline. “It was exactly what we needed. All the buildings worked for the storyline.”
Scouts were in the area before Christmas 2019, along with the art director and production designer, to see how everything would work. Parts of the set—including the replica of Zion United Church erected on 4th Street—were built at the base camp in North Vancouver and shipped to Ashcroft, although the company had a temporary construction shop at an empty warehouse on the former chip plant site near Cache Creek in case they needed to work on pieces or make additions and changes in a dry environment.
Work on construction and set dressing began in January, building towards the start of filming at the beginning of February. Kadzielski says that at the peak of filming there were about 180 crew members in town, not including more than 100 people—many of them locals—who worked as background talent. Other locals were employed on the crew, as security, and as production assistants.
The majority of out of town people stayed in Cache Creek, and Kadzielski says some people had to stay in Kamloops and commute, as there weren’t enough vacancies to fit everyone in Cache Creek. The company had arrangements in place with local restaurants to supply catering, and used Home Hardware in Ashcroft to purchase supplies.
“We also had coffee and cookies at Canada Post every day for the inconvenience to Canada Post customers,” says Kadzielski. Because the post office parking lot was being used by the film crew, street parking on Railway was arranged as a courtesy to patrons.
“We distributed a thank you letter, but I’d like to express a thank you to the community of Ashcroft, for giving us the opportunity to be here and to be welcomed in such a great way. The cast and crew had overwhelming support from the community, which was very nice to see.”
Kadzielski says that the general feedback from the crew was great.
“Everybody enjoyed working here, and had nothing but good things to say about the community. Everyone was welcomed. To grab a coffee at the bakery every day was great. The locals sitting there started a conversation, said hello. People said ‘Thank you for being here’ and I said thank you for having us.”
The Oscar ceremony took place while filming was still going on, and Kadzielski says that the Ashcroft Legion—the basement of which was used as a holding area for background talent—opened on Feb. 9 so that members of the crew could gather together and watch the Oscars.
The replica of Zion United was taken back to Vancouver in pieces in case it was needed again for filming. Kadzielski says that it will be stored, and some pieces might be re-used for a different production.
However, some lasting reminders of the production remain. The façade of Central Café, which was repainted for one scene, will retain its new peach paint job, as will the interior of the real Zion United, which was an ivory colour before being repainted pale green for the filming of one scene which featured about 65 extras.
“They’re really happy with how [the paint job] turned out, and are leaving it as is. And the owner of the Central likes the peach colour, and lots of people complimented us on it.”
Kadzielski says there is no air date yet for the episode, but that as soon as they have a date they will be in touch and let people know when to look out for it. In the meantime, he says that being in the area was wonderful for the production.
“We had such a great experience doing this, so thank you to council for accepting our proposal to be here. It was a lot of work to prep it and be here to do it, but all went well and without a hitch. And from a production view we loved what we saw on the camera.”