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Victoria expected to be busy with movie and TV productions

If the stars align, it looks as if film and TV production activity in the capital region will be on par with one of our busiest spring and summer seasons on record.
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Dylan Neal stars in The Gourmet Detective. Shooting for the third film in the series is tentatively planned for the fall.

If the stars align, it looks as if film and TV production activity in the capital region will be on par with one of our busiest spring and summer seasons on record.

Playful puppies, culinary sleuths and inspirational characters are expected to face the cameras here, potentially diverting our attention from back-to-school and federal-election madness.

The action starts Monday when the 16-day shoot for a new Hallmark movie begins, with Kim Arnott on board as executive producer.

It has been a busy stretch for the B.C. producer (R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour), whose local credits include Jason Bourque’s Stonados and this year’s Disney XD movie For Wheelz, Stranger in the House and Playdate.

It’s the first of nine projects the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission has been working with.

Six would potentially shoot before the year’s end, film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert said.

“We’re also working on a fairly big one for the spring of 2016 and one between January and March,” she said.

Contrary to online rumours, however, Stephen Amell was not in town this month to shoot Season 4 footage for the CW series The Arrow, which features Hatley Castle as Queen Mansion.

Bonnie Nelson, director of campus services, said there has been no Arrow filming at Hatley Castle “beyond the original production in 2012,” and no future shoots of which she was aware.

Amell, who plays Oliver Queen, the billionaire businessman who moonlights as a superhero, was here, but for a private visit.

It’s no wonder the Arrow shoot rumours started. Its Facebook-friendly star posted a video of himself Aug. 8 on the legislature lawn with James Bamford, The Arrow’s Victoria-born stunt and fight co-ordinator.

“This could all go horribly wrong,” joked Amell, who, just for fun, wanted to see if any of the tens of thousands of fans watching him in real time would drop by and say hello.

Bamford, who Amell revealed would also direct episode 407, reminisced about the Undersea Gardens and and former Royal London Wax Museum, lamenting the extinction of these “Victoria institutions.”

The pair chatted with passerby Grant Dobson, who plays for the Dodgers, the Victoria Mavericks baseball league team, and who once met Amell at a Toronto Blue Jays game in Seattle.

Amell, a huge WWE fan who spars with wrestling superstars online, came over to catch that night’s WWE Summerslam Live event.

“What an amazing weekend in Victoria, B.C., home of the 1925 Stanley Cup champion Victoria Cougars!! Nice to know at least one B.C. team did it,” he tweeted.

(Amell will step into the ring himself, to battle WWE superstar Stardust at Brooklyn’s Barclay Centre Sunday, with T-shirt sale proceeds going to Emily’s House, a Toronto hospice for children.)

The third film in The Gourmet Detective series for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is tentatively scheduled to shoot here this fall, production manager Allen Lewis said. His Front Street Pictures team was last here in mid-July wrapping Martha Williamson’s new Signed, Sealed, Delivered film for Hallmark.

“We wanted to let the town cool down a bit after the summer,” Lewis said.

He said filming could start Oct. 26 at recurring locations, including Times Colonist office space doubling as a San Francisco police station.

“We want to have the series recurring in Victoria,” Lewis said. “It’s been so much fun to make.”

The region got a thumbs-up from the cast of Signed, Sealed, Delivered, whose star, Eric Mabius, indulged his passion for paddleboarding near his rented home here.

Air Bud Entertainment, which produced the comedy Monkey Up! — starring Crystal the capuchin monkey, of Night at the Museum fame — here last spring, is also scheduled to return with the canine caper Pup Stars.

“We’re at 18 productions so far this year and if we could get more we’d be double what we were in 2006,” said Gilbert, referring to the record-setting year when 12 productions generated $18 million in revenue.

Other recent productions that kept crews on their toes include:

• executive producer Wes Craven’s The Girl in the Photographs, starring Kal Penn;

• Just in Time for Christmas, the Hallmark Hall of Fame film with William Shatner, Christopher Lloyd and Eloise Mumford;

• Tere Bina, the Bollywood mystery-comedy starring Punjabi screen idol Neeru Bajwa;

• sequences for 1491: The Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus, Arrow Productions’ docudrama miniseries;

• The Boy, Lakeshore Entertainment’s psychological thriller starring The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan,

• and the Lifetime drug drama Perfect High, with Bella Thorne.