Gracepoint TV series starts shooting today in Greater Victoria

It’s showtime, folks! It’s also history in the making as principal photography gets under way today on Gracepoint, the largest production yet to grace Greater Victoria’s shores for the cameras.

Director James Strong and crews were slated to start rolling on Oak Bay Avenue for the 10-episode series inspired by Broadchurch, the British TV crime series starring David Tennant, famous for Doctor Who.

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The former Guardian Pharmacy, posing as the Gracepoint Journal, the newspaper in a fictional seaside northern California town, is the first of several locations from Oak Bay to Sidney to be used in a shoot lasting more than three months.

Produced by Shine America for Fox, the Gracepoint cast includes Anna Gunn, Nick Nolte, Jacki Weaver, Michael Pena and Kevin Zegers. There is a 150-person crew.

Executive producer John Goldwyn said Victoria’s look “and how little we had to do to get what we wanted” was a big reason the multimillion-dollar series is being shot here.

“We decided to embrace what’s unique about Victoria in terms of topography and try to get the audience invested in this world,” Goldwyn said, noting Gracepoint’s look “and different tone and nuances” will distinguish it from the ITV series. “It’s something we haven’t seen a lot. It’s much wilder than Broadchurch, which was shot in Dorset where the beaches are wide and flat.”

He said he was also impressed by the calibre of local crews.

“Our production designer [Vancouver’s David Wilson] is incredibly resourceful,” Goldwyn said. “And he really knows this part of the world. He’s as good as anyone in Hollywood.”

Other locations will include the Times Colonist newsroom, masquerading as the San Francisco Globe; Oak’s Restaurant & Grill, doubling as a local inn; and a police station and morgue constructed in Sidney’s Seaport Place.

While the production budget is confidential, Victoria film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert said the local spend would be substantial.

“A TV series of this calibre spends in the neighbourhood of $1 million per episode locally,” she said. “That includes spending on things like gas, housing, per diem for crews, buying construction materials, food at the grocery stores.”

Gracepoint will be the biggest TV series filmed in Victoria since Terminal City, Crescent Entertainment’s 10-part miniseries in 2004. It’s also the most expensive, labour-intensive project filmed in its entirety on Vancouver Island since The 13th Warrior in 1998, Gilbert said.

Expect possible intermittent traffic flow delays today at Oak Bay Avenue and Foul Bay Road, Oak Bay film liaison officer Janet Barclay said.

She said producers have consulted with local police, fire and public works departments on a traffic management plan.

“It’s a very professional team,” said Barclay. “The nature of production is that things can change daily, but we have a good system in place.”

Gilbert said such systems, and a willingness by municipalities to cut red tape, are essential for filming to proceed smoothly, and attract future business.

“You might have to give up your parking space for a couple of days but it’s a small price to pay. We need to look at the big picture,” Gilbert said.

“Yes, there might be some inconvenience but does the economic impact outweigh it? I think it behooves all of us to get behind and support these industries, to see what it brings to our town now, and for film tourism.”

mreid@timescolonist.com

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