The Ashcroft Journal building had a slight makeover when it featured in the background of an episode of The Twilight Zone being filmed in the town in Feb. 2020. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

The Editor’s Desk: The circus leaves town

For one brief, shining moment, running away to join the circus was a tantalizing possibility

“It’s very sad when the circus leaves town.”

So said Victoria Weller, film commissioner for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, in response to a message from me on Feb. 10. I had been in Kamloops that day, and when I drove back into Ashcroft it was obvious that filming on The Twilight Zone was starting to wind down. There was still one more night scene to shoot, but the “circus” — the small city of vehicles that had clustered at the south end of Railway Avenue — had markedly dwindled, and around town there were signs that the tents were being struck and the crew was dispersing.

After several weeks of buzz and excitement I found it vaguely depressing; hence my message to Vicci, in which I said as much, and her response. For the better part of a month I’d had a ringside seat from my office on 4th Street, watching the goings-on. During the week of February 3 the action ramped up, with the street closed and hordes of crew members and extras filming various scenes, seeming not to mind the snowy conditions. All week long shuttle buses hurried to and fro, transporting cast and crew hither and thither, and anyone hoping to pop into the bakery and be in and out in their usual five minutes or less was probably taken aback to find that such was not the case.

With the production taking a day off on Sunday, Feb. 9, the street reopened. A few crew members were out and about, tidying things up and moving equipment, and I expected a quiet day, but it was not to be. For the entire time I was at my office, 4th Street was the busiest place in town, as a steady stream of vehicles prowled slowly along it, taking in the changed appearance of the street. More than one person stopped and hopped out of their vehicle to take pictures, and there was no shortage of pedestrians incorporating 4th Street into their Sunday peregrinations.

Apart from one online grumble from someone upset about the film crew “taking over the town” and not giving anything back, the response from every local I spoke with or heard from was overwhelmingly positive. There was nothing but praise from every crew member I spoke with, and I talked to quite a few. To a person they spoke glowingly about the warm welcome they’d received, the friendliness of everyone they’d met, and the positive reception they’d encountered.

On Tuesday, Feb. 11 one last scene was filmed on 4th Street. As soon as it was finished the cast dispersed and crew members swept in to begin dismantling everything. Over the next three days the set dressing was removed, equipment was packed away, and the replica of Zion United Church was dismantled piece by piece and bundled into trucks.

Two signs that had hung in the window of the Journal office, indicating that the building was for lease, were taken down. On the day they were put up, the two crew members had difficulty getting one of the signs to lie flat against the blinds. After watching them for a minute, I said “Why don’t you paperclip the corner of the sign to one of the slats on the blinds?”

The two men looked at each other. “That’ll work,” said one, then turned to me. “Would you like a job?”

It was said in jest, I know, but for one brief, shining moment the opportunity to run away and join the circus hung in the air before me, as tantalizing and alluring as whatever song the Sirens sang to Odysseus. I said with a smile “Are you hiring?” and we all laughed, then went back to our respective jobs.

So when the circus left town, I wasn’t with it. However, it’s still with me, in the form of a host of happy memories, dozens of photographs, and a silver paperclip on my desk. And who knows? If the circus comes to town again, there might well be more opportunities; if not for me, then for others. Don’t be afraid to grab them; you never know where they might lead.

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