Big Picture: Acapulco shoot just the job for Victoria-based producer

It wasn’t just his glee over having spent a week on the job in Acapulco that had Allen Lewis smiling from ear-to-ear in his Victoria production office.

Lewis, vice-president of production for Front Street Pictures, couldn’t resist showing off his tan acquired during his busman’s holiday to oversee production of the Hallmark movie Destination Wedding.

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It gave him the chance to reunite with Anne Carlucci, executive producer of Walking the Dog, the Hallmark romance that Front Street co-produced here last fall. And it was on a movie that lives up its title, he said.

“It’s about people who go to this amazing resort to get married,” said the Metchosin-based producer whose film’s most exotic sequences were filmed at Acapulco’s luxurious Princess Mundo Imperial resort.

“It was great because we didn’t need a circus [area where movie trucks assemble] and didn’t have to move around to different locations.” Destination Wedding had been slated to take place in Hawaii, but relocated to Mexico, where its small cast was joined by an entirely Mexican crew, except for the costume department and script supervisor.

“Of course, we had all our local crews volunteering to go down there to work,” Lewis said with a laugh.

“I started to miss our rain if you can believe that.”

Lewis should get plenty of our liquid sunshine now that he’s back at work on pre-production for Site Unseen: An Emma Fielding Mystery, his new Hallmark movie, part of the network’s Mystery Wheel series, that starts shooting here on Sunday.

Getting the green light to make the film, based on Massachusetts-born author and archaeologist Dana Cameron’s series of mystery novels, was welcome news, Lewis said.

It was another indication that the Wheels are literally continuing to turn for the Vancouver-based production company, which has been shooting steadily here for the past two years.

“It’s another of those Wheels that we talk about. First we had The Gourmet Detective and then the Fixer Upper mysteries, and now this,” said Lewis, who hopes to shoot several more franchise pictures here each year.

The Mystery Wheel series rotates three different movie franchises, each featuring distinct characters whose continuing adventures are chronicled in three or four movies over several months. “We’ve finally been able to get three of these built here,” said Lewis, whose team began two years ago with The Gourmet Detective première. The fourth instalment is slated to start rolling here in May.

The third instalment of the Fixer Upper mystery franchise, starring Jewel as a Victorian home restoration expert who solves mysteries in Lighthouse Cove, will also start shooting here this spring.

The company already has two Fixer Upper films in the can. The original, subtitled Framed for Murder, was followed by Concrete Evidence: A Fixer Upper Mystery, which premières Sunday night.

While casting has yet to be confirmed, Site Unseen: An Emma Fielding Mystery focuses on a brilliant archaeologist and sleuth who digs up the dirt in more ways than one after she discovers a corpse while unearthing evidence of a 17th century Maine settlement.

The capital region’s shores are being passed off as Jamestown, Virginia, with filming scheduled to take place mostly in Metchosin, including at My Chosen Café and near Taylor Beach, and in Brentwood Bay and Sidney.

“We’ve got a police boat, a dive boat, and a fair bit of water action at Finlayson Arm,” said Lewis, whose local crews won’t be shooting Front Street films here over the summer, however.

“We’re trying not to shoot here in July or August again so we’re not clogging streets, and the hotels really don’t need us at that time of year,” he said.

MOVIE CENTRAL: Three months after setting up shop in Odeon Alley, the CineVic Society of Independent Filmmakers is ready to show off its new digs to the public.

The non-profit, artist-run independent filmmaking society is having an open house from 6 to 10 p.m. at its new digs at 102-764 Yates St. tonight.

“There’s this interesting irony to our new location, this juxtaposition that was at the back of our mind when we were deciding whether to take it or not,” said executive director David Geiss.

He was referring to the cinematic hub’s new 1,000-square-foot space being adjacent to Cineplex Odeon, where commercial Hollywood releases dominate in contrast to the kind of films CineVic members make.

“It ended up just feeling kind of right to be in that location, because the Victoria Film Festival office is also near there,” said Geiss, whose members hosted festival-related events at their new home.

Tonight’s open house will double as an information session about monthly CineVic lounge social events.

There will also be details available on filmmaking workshops, such as Sunday’s artist talk with filmmaker Carl Bessai from 1 to 3 p.m., the Cinespark script competition and the Short Circuit: Pacific Rim Film Festival. The festival will get its own launch event next Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Atrium, 800 Yates St. Admission to both events is free.

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