Small town landmarks shine on big

By VERONICA REINER

Film crews turned to two local landmarks in Waterloo Region for the 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s It.

The film, based on the horror novel of the same name, is about seven young outcasts who must overcome their fears to battle “it,” which is a shape-shifting spirit that emerges every 27 years. It takes the form of a murderous, bloodthirsty clown known as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard). The film also stars up-and-coming child actors Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis and Jaeden Lieverher.

It has received positive reviews, with critics praising the actors’ performances, cinematography and music score. It has grossed more than $683 million worldwide and is already set for a sequel in 2019.

Moviegoers will recognize the Elora Quarry and the West Montrose Covered Bridge in the film. These landmarks are cherished and hold historical significance to local residents. The bridge is the only remaining covered bridge in the province. The quarry has been a designated conversation area since 1976, with cliffs surrounding a beautiful two-acre swimming area.

According to the Ontario Media Development Corporation, 2016 was the best year ever in terms of film production. The industry supported more the 35,500 jobs, 3,200 more than in 2015, and contributed $1.7 billion to the province’s economy.

It is no surprise that Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are the top Canadian film destinations for Hollywood directors. These cities have “acted” as countless American urban environments. But what about featuring the beauty of smaller towns on the big screen?
Filmmakers are getting out of the metropolitan areas and taking advantage of what smaller cities have to offer, including those in Waterloo Region.

The Handmaid’s Tale is an Emmy-winning television series created by Bruce Miller based on the 1985 novel of the same name, which was written by Margaret Atwood. Several scenes were filmed in the downtown Galt area of Cambridge, including in historic city hall, the farmers’ market, on Main Street and on its bridge. Other Cambridge productions include Murdoch Mysteries, Nikita, Between, Silent Hill 2, State Like Sleep, Bitten, 12 Monkeys, Heroes Reborn, Reds and American Gods.

Both Cambridge and Kitchener have separate film departments. All Cambridge productions require a filmmaker to apply for a film permit 15 business days before shooting.

“Filming in the City of Cambridge has grown exponentially over the past five years,” said Devon Hogue, business information officer. “Some of this growth is due to things outside of our control (low Canadian dollar, government grants, proximity to Hamilton and Toronto), much of it is due to our beautiful natural and built heritage (the river is our largest attractor) and the third factor is the things we can control – our film process and the relationships we’ve cultivated over the years.

“I have been with the economic development office for about two and a half years, and we’ve really developed a strong film process in response to the increase in projects.”

In Kitchener, Victoria Park is a popular site for filmmakers. The television series Murdoch Mysteries and the 2011 film Ecstasy were both filmed in this location. Other Kitchener productions include Taken, Dark Matter and Dan For Mayor, according to Jeff Young, City of Kitchener’s manager of special events.

The Kitchener film department has been active for over 10 years. It was started because of the “demand for the television/film industry to use Kitchener as a backdrop,” Young said. “It is more of an intake office rather than actively searching for filming opportunities.”
Stars who have acted in Waterloo Region include Clive Standen and Yannick Bisson.

When a production approaches the Kitchener film services department, they generally do so a month before filming the actual scenes.
“The best thing about working with filming is the sense of community pride these projects inspire,” said Hogue.

“When you live in an area for a long time, you can take the beauty of it for granted – getting bogged down in complaints about traffic, construction, etc. But when you see your city on the screen, looking amazing and otherworldly, it really makes you pause and think about all the things and people that make it great.

“We need to celebrate our community assets, and film production reminds us to do just that.”

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