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Big Picture: Greater Victoria film production ramps up

The term “when it rains, it pours” might not apply weather-wise with our lingering dry spell, but it describes our production climate. Three film and TV projects are in pre-production here, with one movie starting to roll Monday.
Emmanuelle Vaugier stars in Stranger in the House, a mystery thriller.

The term “when it rains, it pours” might not apply weather-wise with our lingering dry spell, but it describes our production climate.

Three film and TV projects are in pre-production here, with one movie starting to roll Monday.

Stranger in the House is directed by Allan Harmon from a screenplay by Roslyn Muir for Really Real Films, the Vancouver production company Harmon runs with his wife, executive producer Cynde Harmon.

The mystery-thriller starring Dan Payne, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Matthew MacCaull and Jordana Largy will be set in a “neutral country, state or province,” he said.

It focuses on Jade (Vaugier), a 30-something lawyer who returns from her honeymoon to discover the caregiver she hired to care for her aging father has married him.

“When he unexpectedly dies, Jade tries to prove he was murdered,” said Harmon, who could barely contain his enthusiasm for his star.

“Emmanuelle’s pretty special, a great actress and real professional,” he said. The Vancouver native’s credits include playing Det. Jessica Angell on CSI: NY, Mia on Two and a Half Men and Addison Corday in Saw II and Saw IV .

Harmon said he was relieved MacCaull didn’t show up with the mullet he sported to play a homicidal, hard-drinking hothead in Jason Bourque’s wilderness thriller Black Fly.

“Liked the movie, hated the mullet,” said Harmon with a laugh.

Front Street Pictures, which recently shot the first two movies in Hallmark’s The Gourmet Detective series and the romantic comedy The Last Resort here, is also back.

Producer Allen Lewis said filming will begin June 29 on Signed, Sealed, Delivered, a Hallmark Channel movie version of its hit series about four postal workers who track down the intended recipients of undeliverable mail.

“The two-hour format gives us time to develop the stories more,” said the Metchosin-based producer, whose crews are scouting locations doubling as Afghanistan and Washington, D.C.

“It’s a nice vacation for me coming back to work in Victoria.”

Lewis returns armed with an Emmy award for the Vancouver-based company’s R.L. Stine’s Haunting Hour series.

Meanwhile, Aarrow Productions and Animiki See Digital Production have opened local production offices. The two are co-producers of 1491: The Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus, the docudrama mini-series based on Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas.

The eight-part series will be broadcast by Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and Germany’s ZDF next year.

Barbara Hager co-wrote with Marie Clements, and is directing the documentary elements, with Lisa Jackson directing dramatic sequences.

The ambitious project is being filmed throughout North and South America with an all-indigenous cast of actors, cultural leaders and scholars.

“It’s been mind-boggling, trying to turn the book into a TV series,” said Hager. “It’s a huge story and pretty collaborative.”

The filmmakers shot in Peru two weeks ago and in Taos Pueblo in New Mexico last week. Now they are off to the Yucatan to shoot Mayan drama scenes next week before shooting 12 days on Vancouver Island this summer.

* * *

An amusing challenge Sara and Erin Foster face in Canada is having to remind fans that their hit VH1 show Barely Famous isn’t actually a reality series.

“We shoot our show the way you’d shoot a film,” says Sara, adding “our biggest asset has been the critics” in promoting the mockumentary-faux reality show stateside.

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“The Hollywood Reporter compared us to Curb Your Enthusiasm!” she said when the duo and half-sister Amy Foster were here to watch their dad David Foster receive UVic’s Distinguished Entrepreneur Award.

Their star-studded, laugh-out-loud funny show, which mercilessly mocks performers who use reality shows to advance their careers, charts the siblings’ dating and showbiz adventures.

They play sisters who aggressively attempt to maintain a picture-perfect image, while maintaining they’d never dare do a reality show themselves.

“We’re just happy for people to watch it,” says Erin, acknowledging Canadian viewers can only catch it on YouTube.

“Our show is very word-of-mouth,” adds Sara, best known for her roles as Jen Clark in 90210 and crooked developer Gary Sinise’s mistress in The Big Bounce.

Erin, the comedy writer (The New Normal) should be an even more familiar face in her father’s homeland now that she has “seized the opportunity” to get a Canadian passport.

Amy, whose mother is Victoria musician B.J. Cook, described her famous father’s success as a philanthropist, entrepreneur and musician as “a constant source of inspiration.”

“It never feels like something I have to live up to, but his consistent encouragement helps me believe that anything is possible,” says the Portland, Oregon-based author (When Autumn Leaves) and songwriter who wrote the hits Home, Everything and Haven’t Met You Yet with Michael Bublé.

“He never put a cap on his children’s dreams.”

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