- BC Games
Spooksville: THAT’S A WRAP!
"I think you've been discovered."
These words straight from the lips of former Fox Kids Network CEO, Hallmark Channel creator, and current head of United States-based Hub Network's Margaret Loesch.
She's referring to Cowichan as a prime location for television series producers who work for networks like hers, which is set to air the TV action-adventure series Spooksville come fall.
While many crews have shot films in the Warm Land, Spooksville boasts the longest run, spanning four months. It wraps up filming today.
If ratings go well once the show hits the small screen, there's a good chance more episodes will be filmed in Cowichan, hinted Loesch.
"(Producer Harvey Kahn) first suggested Vancouver Island to us and at first I was skeptical," the Los Angeles-based long-time television producer said in an interview Wednesday at Duncan's curling club, an important location holding three of the show's main standing sets for the past four months.
"This was a complete mystery to me. (Producer Jane Startz) and the location crew took photos here last winter and not only did the photos take our breath away with the beauty here, but the diversity was amazing. I was instantly smitten," she said.
But Cowichan folks — and Cowichan bank accounts — also have Spooksville's production designer — a man known simply as Tink — to thank.
"I was interviewed for the position about a year ago and started scouting on Vancouver Island," he explained.
After a scouting trip to Duncan, he was also a tad skeptical there wasn't enough of the pieces to put together the Spooksville town puzzle. But on a second trip to the valley he came across Chemainus.
"The second time back I saw Chemainus and it was just this quaint, very cool seaside community and I knew it could work here."
He, like many of the folks on the 100-strong Spooksville crew, fell in love with the Warm Land. In fact, Tink fell head over heals so much he now has a Canadian residence at Cherry Point.
Production manager Michelle Samuels shared the same love.
"I considered this a working vacation," she said Wednesday. In some ways, so did the three main cast members.
"As soon as I got off the plane, I was like, 'Wow, there's mountains,'" Spooksville's leading lady, Ontario's 14-year-old Katie Douglas (Spooksville's Sally Wilcox) said.
In between filming, she and cast members Keean Johnson (Adam Freeman) and Nick Purcha (Watch Waverly) — among other activities — got a chance to catch the Great Gatsby at Duncan's Caprice Theatre as well as a bite at Cow Bay's Cow Cafe. They agreed dips at the Cobble Hill Quarry after shooting were among their favourite experiences.
"They pretty much nailed it on the nose," 16-year-old Port Coquitlam native Purcha said of producers picking Cowichan.
Even their moms were soaking in valley amenities.
"If my mom's not hiking, she's obsessed with this cross-fit class in Duncan she's been doing," said Johnson, also 16, who hails from Los Angeles. "I love the island. It's definitely going to be a culture shock when I get home."
Spooksville's staff is made up of about 50% of folks currently calling Vancouver Island Home. About 70% have lived on Vancouver Island at some point in their lives.
Those percentages includes first assistant director Shamess Shute, who calls the capital city home. Closer yet is assistant location manager Paul Russell, who grew up a Cowichanian.
Russell lived in Cowichan Bay before moving to Vancouver. He's now living back in Duncan.
"This is the best production I've worked on," he said, counting 13 years experience under his belt. "We're so fortunate to work with such unique locations. No one has ever shot at the quarry before."
Filming was also done on Mt. Tzouhalem, at the Cowichan Bay Butter Church, the Cowichan Lake Education Centre, the former Stanley Gordon School, Duncan Elementary, and in Downtown Duncan including at Lois Lane, city hall, Bucky's Sport Shop and the Green Door.
But while footage was shot in Cowichan Bay, Saltair and Ladysmith, the epicentre of Spooksville filming was in Chemainus. Willow Street was transformed into a zombie apocalypse, several local homes were swapped for the character residences, Kudos Japanese restaurant became the Holy Mackerel diner and the Hermit's Trail worked perfectly as a spooky over-grown garden exterior.
"I've actually been living in (the home that serves as) Sally's set in Chemainus," said Startz, who's worked on many children's shows including the Magic School Bus, the Baby Sitters Club, and several other Scholastic projects. "This has been the best experience of my entire career."
Loesch commended the cast and the crew.
"Everyone has given 100% and the cast, I've seen how these kids have grown through this experience," the studio head said, adding of Startz: "she has this very strong tenacity, and it's a tenacity that we share."
And she had only nice things to say about Cowichan's hospitality.
"I've been so impressed with the folks here. A lot of times, we can be seen as intrusive and some people are skeptical of us, but that hasn't been the case here."
The crew's last day of series shooting took place today at the curling rink, but Monday and Tuesday they still had to shoot five in-between episode commentary clips they're calling webisodes.
Staff expect the 22-episode Spooksville to be aired in the states on Discovery's Hub in the fall as well as on a pending Canadian network.
Peeking onto the set
Someone belts out “Rolling!” before a loud bell rings through the building.
All the clunks and clatter, and sounds of folks talking fade away for a few short minutes before the chaos commences again.
The News Leader Pictorial’s tour of the Sherman Road Curling Club filming site may have been a small smattering of what’s gone on in the last four months during Spooksville’s stay here, but it gave reporter Ashley Degraaf and photographer Andrew Leong an interactive, first-hand taste, nonetheless.
“The coolest part has been seeing the world come to life,” Spooksville’s production designer Tink said Wednesday from the club.
The club held three of the show’s standing sets, the interior of Adam’s room, interior of Watch’s lab, and interior of the castle’s Curiosities Room.
Those and a few less permanent structures, including the mayor’s cardboard box home and cardboard “hallway of his mind.”
The dark and dingy Curiosities Room (left) is by far the coolest structure.
“I haven’t seen a set like this since Dark Angel,” assistant location manager Paul Russell said, comparing Curiosities to sets in the American biopunk/cyberpunk science fiction series created by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee.
A dominating black fireplace is played as the centrepiece, with black accents, candlesticks, lamp posts, large chandeliers, in every corner.
It was inspired by Victorian-era Scottish Baronial mansion Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria.This set was one of Tink’s favourites.
“This set probably took me about a month and a half to finish,” he said.