Gracepoint TV crew feels at home in Oak Bay

As Victoria-area filming of Gracepoint passes the halfway mark, it seems to dispel misconceptions about Oak Bay as much as raising the capital region’s profile on the global production map.

“For some reason, people seem to think you need a passport to come into Oak Bay,” said Bobb Hamilton, director of Red Art Gallery at 2249 Oak Bay Ave. He said his business has been attracting more visitors from farther afield since the 10-episode Fox remake of the British crime series Broadchurch began shooting in January.

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“I feel, as a business owner, they’re bringing a lot of awareness to the village.”

Producers have tried to mitigate disruption by spacing out filming at private homes, a police station set built in Sidney, and at Island View Beach.

Still, Scottish actor David Tennant, who plays Det. Emmett Carver, and his castmates and crews were hard to miss during some shoots, such as a street sequence filmed Monday in Oak Bay Village, doubling as the fictional California town of the title.

The day’s action featured scenes set at Gracepoint Farmer’s Market, actor Kevin Zegers as Gracepoint Journal reporter Owen Burke bombing around on a motor scooter, children playing games and locals renting bikes.

“They’ve been pretty considerate,” said Andrew Moyer, co-owner of Ottavio, where fleur-de-lis flags signified the Italian bakery-delicatessen’s Quebec Week. It was in stark contrast to the coastal California flavour evoked on the 2200-block of Oak Bay Avenue, where rows of sea-green Gracepoint (“America’s last hometown”) banners still flap in the wind.

“We’ve had a hard time judging whether we’re getting more customers because of the fire [at its sister store, the Italian Bakery on Quadra] or the filming.”

Despite some issues related to parking and traffic, Oak Bay residents have “by and large been very tolerant and accepting,” says Mayor Nils Jensen. “It’s because of the nature of the organization we’re dealing with. They’re highly professional and experienced. Most of those who have had complaints have been very well dealt with.”

Jensen said what he’s hearing most from locals these days is how interesting the process has been to watch. “In a very short time they transformed Oak Bay Avenue into these verdant streets with plants everywhere,” he said. “A lot of people had no idea the amount of work and effort it takes.”

Filming has not been without challenges, such as when producers had to delay the big shoot on Oak Bay Avenue from Family Day because of a snowfall warning despite Hamilton’s assurances “it doesn’t snow in Oak Bay.”

Crews have “thoroughly enjoyed” shooting here so far, said Carolyn G. Bernstein, executive vice-president of scripted television for Shine America.

“I’ve worked on many different series throughout my career and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a community support a production in the manner that the people of [Greater Victoria] have thus far,” said the executive producer of the series, now filming episodes five and six.

Tennant got a taste of that when he recently dropped by Ottavio, causing some staff to “geek out,” laughed Moyer.

Barista Rachel Gordon-Duford, 20, recognized the actor, not from Doctor Who or Broadchurch, but from his portrayal of wizard Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

“He was really nonchalant, with his head down and glasses on and I said: ‘Are you David Tennant?’ ” Gordon-Duford said. He smiled and said “Yes” in his Scottish accent. “He was sweet.”

Tennant also proved he’s a child at heart while shopping at Timeless Toys, its facade doubling as secondary exterior for the Gracepoint Journal, housed in the former Guardian Pharmacy.

“He was lovely, very unimposing and dapper,” said staffer Lesley MacArthur, noting Tennant playfully duelled with co-worker Dale Chan with toy swords and shields.

“It’s not every day Hollywood comes to town, so to have a chance to be part of it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said owner Neil Rogers.

Victoria film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert estimated there would be at least $10 million in total spending by the time Gracepoint wraps.

Revenues include transportation, hotel, equipment rentals, per-diem spending and location fees paid to businesses such as Oaks Restaurant and Grill, masquerading as Crestview Rooms and Pub.

“It’s been a benefit to us and a boon,” said co-owner Isa Hosein, whose restaurant closes about two days every two weeks for filming. “They’ll film and then the street will liven up with spectators, and for the rest of the week we’re smokin’ busy.”

Unity Business Systems has also benefited by renting them business machines, said general manager Frank Buruma.

“The revenue will be in excess of $10,000,” he said. “They can be demanding but we’re used to that. When they want something, they want it yesterday.”

mreid@timescolonist.com

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