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Film czar a go-getter

Jo Anne Walton brings a wealth of practical experience to critical position

That "whoosh" you just heard wasn't another gust of West Coast winds.

It was a collective sigh of relief from the local film industry, reacting to news of Jo Anne Walton's appointment as Victoria's new film commissioner.

She beat 62 applicants from across Canada, the U.S. and even the U.K.

"It was probably the hardest recruit I've ever done," said human resources consultant Shannon Feeney. "There were so many good and qualified candidates."

Walton, former Western Canada marketing manager for the National Film Board and director of film for Vancouver's IDERA Films, is a dynamic, personable woman, with the experience the Greater Victoria Film Commission board was seeking.

She's a skilled public sector fundraiser with experience in film production, media marketing strategies and government relations and publicity, having directed launches of indie productions including Broke, Saving Luna and Acts of Imagination.

Walton isn't doing media interviews until she takes office Jan. 4, but she's wasting no time meeting local players.

"I feel quite confident. She's very well connected," said Paul Rayman, a local producer (Seven Deadly Sins) who met Walton last Friday. "She's very keen and wants to grow the business."

The night before that she made an appearance at an open house for the Pacific Film and New Media Academy.

Rayman, Alberta's film commissioner from 2000 to 2003, considers it a plus that Walton spent so much time in Edmonton. He said it's similar to Victoria because of the smaller "boutique location shows" it attracts.

"I think she's going to be very familiar with what's here," said Rayman, who commended the commission's interim staff for filling the gap since her predecessor Rod Hardy left in August. "I needed locations and they were very quick to react."

Victoria talent agent Barbara Coultish said temporarily doing without a commissioner was less of a liability as it might have been because players like Rayman and Ted Bauman (Sorority Wars) kept bringing in productions.

"I think we've been lucky we were able to fall back on that," said Coultish, confident Walton would get the word out that "there's more reasons to come here than just Royal Roads," and address the need to promote our infrastructure.

She said she senses Walton is a "go-getter" like highly respected past commissioner Kate Petersen.

B.C. Film Commission director Susan Croome, whose Vancouver office has been assisting local interim staff, applauded the appointment. "We hear she's a great gal, so we're thrilled," she said.

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It sounds like an Agatha Christie whodunit: The Mystery of the Disembodied Feet.

That's the working title of an episode of Eaux Troubles du Crime (Dark Waters of Crime), the docudrama series featuring crimes that involve water. A six-day shoot of three episodes at locations from Elk Lake to local beaches wrapped up Sunday.

It focuses on the mystery surrounding the series of sneaker-clad feet that began washing up on B.C. shorelines in 2007.

"We look into all theories, and the role ocean currents can play," said executive producer Sylvie Peltier, whose White Rock-based Red Letter Films produces the show for Quebec's Canal D. They're filming here for the third year in a row.

Peltier first visited in November of 2006 to re-enact the 1997 murder of Reena Virk under the Craigflower Bridge.

"What's fantastic is we have crews from our first and second time here, so it's really gelled," Peltier said.

Elk Lake doubled as Lake Simcoe ("It was hard but we managed it") for Winston's Secret, an episode focusing on Winston Malcolm, who drowned his partner and tried to make it appear accidental by capsizing their canoe.

And in Deadly Passion, a drenched bus transfer retrieved from the body of Tanya Pinette helps provide clues about the murder of the 15-year-old runaway who was stabbed by her boyfriend and left to die in a creek in Quebec.

It wasn't just our locations and crews that struck Peltier.

"Victorians are real outdoor enthusiasts," she said. "I've never seen so many people go for walks, runs and bike rides at night with lights on. Wow, that's hardcore."

Eaux Troubles du Crime airs locally on Bell ExpressVu (channel 129) and Shaw (904). Check canald.com for airtimes.

mreid@tc.canwest.com