It’s the afternoon of Tuesday, Jan. 21, and as I write this I’m sitting in my office at the Journal, occasionally raising my head from the computer to look out the window and across 4th Street at the construction going on in the parking lot beside the Mascon building.
The construction is still at an early stage, but already the building looks remarkably like Zion United Church, only a block further down the street. That’s because it is Zion United, or at least a replica of the outside of that venerable building, the interior of which will soon be used for the filming of some scenes in an episode of a major US television series.
The production company also wants to film the exterior of the building, but unfortunately, other buildings around it aren’t what they want. I presume that rather than use computer generated imagery (CGI) — which is very costly — to digitally remove/replace buildings, it’s less expensive simply to build the church in another location.
The same reasoning is probably behind the decision to film inside the existing Central Café on Railway Avenue but build the exterior in another location on 4th Street for the purposes of filming. It will also have the benefit of keeping most of the exterior filming in one place, since the exteriors of other buildings on the block between Railway and Brink will be used. The museum will be a small-town apartment building and the Mascon building will go back to its bank roots. It’s unclear what role the Journal building will play, but after 120 years it’s nice to see the old gal getting a chance to take centre stage.
Speaking with a crew member who has worked in Ashcroft on other productions I learn that he likes it here, because it’s quiet, people are laid-back and friendly, and there is relatively little traffic.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that, as I look out the window. The crew is generating a fair bit of traffic, but I’m noticing more locals than usual taking a quick spin down 4th, in vehicles and on foot. One person stops outside the Journal office and snaps a couple of pictures on his phone, then continues on his way. A quick glance at social media shows that pics are already going up as locals share the news.
It’s hard to know what this will mean for the local economy, but quite a few crew members have already been here for several days; more will be coming, along with the cast. Filming is from Jan. 31 to Feb. 7, with a week of takedown after that. During this time several dozen people are staying in local hotels, eating in local restaurants, going into local shops, and renting various spaces around town. Locals are being sought to act as background talent — what used to be called extras — for up to seven days of up to 12 hours each day, at $14 –$15 per hour.
Add it all up and it’s a considerable economic boost for the region, at a time of year far removed from the summer season; a time of year when small local businesses can struggle, with few tourists in the area and many people curbing their spending after the holiday season.
There are bound to be some disruptions; already today I’ve seen a flagman out on 4th, stopping traffic as heavy equipment moves on to the site, and I suspect that as production ramps up there will be more such occasions. It might take a little longer than usual to get a coffee or a meal at local restaurants; there might be longer than usual line-ups at area businesses. Plan a little extra time to get things done — not something we’re accustomed to here — and smile at the unfamiliar faces around town.
And have fun, because it will be fun, getting a behind the scenes look at filming. Eventually we’ll get to see part of our little town — or a version of it — preserved for posterity on film. We love our history here; now we get to be another part of it.