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Hollywood comes to Sooke

Story by Prestige Hotels & Resorts June 29th, 2016

hallmark films comes to the resort

There’s always a sense of excitement when a movie crew rolls into town … the ordinary suddenly turns into the extraordinary and curiosity is never far behind. “What are they shooting?” “Who’s the star?” “I wonder why they picked Sooke?” These were just some of the questions I overheard while standing off in my little corner, camera in hand, watching a well-oiled film crew get through their pages of dialogue in a quiet and determined manner.

“It’s been great having them so far,” Jacob Cramp tells me. “They’re fairly independent and have been very respectable with our guests who, I think, are rather enjoying watching everything unfold throughout the resort.”

Cramp, General Manager of the Prestige Oceanfront Resort, has been putting in long days … matching the film crew’s hours (which are long shooting days) while juggling his normal duties. “The added work is something a little different and I want to make sure everyone gets what they need,” he tells me.


Camera at rest hotel in bg.jpg

The convenient groom

Key shooting took place at the Prestige Oceanfront Resort for The Convenient Groom, a Hallmark movie adaptation of the popular book of the same name written by Denise Hunter. Set in the Northeastern United States town of Nantucket, the story follows Kate Lawrence, a celebrity marriage counsellor and author of a best-selling book about Finding Mr. Right. Ironically, her own wedding is jeopardized and her career put at risk when her fiancée doesn’t show up for the big day. A “Convenient Groom” offers to take the place of her missing husband and Kate reluctantly agrees.

Former “General Hospital“ cast member Vanessa Marcil (Port Charles‘ Brenda Barrett) stars. David Sutcliffe (Gilmore Girls) plays opposite Vanessa’s character as Lucas Wright. He’s the convenient groom in the film.

The production crew moved into the hotel and shot throughout the grounds for about 6 days, shooting a number of scenes in the lobby, as well as out in the picturesque gazebo overlooking Sooke Harbour which is a popular site for weddings hosted in real life at the resort.


DOP Anthony Metchie sets up a shot in the lobby
DOP Tony Metchie and Director David Winning check the shot

The resort is also a star

The film, based on Denise Hunter’s book The Convenient Groom is part of her Nantucket novel series. For a variety of reasons the producers scouted locations away from Nantucket. Canada, with experienced production crews and enviable tax credit system, is a country they felt would work - if they could find a hotel / resort that bore any resemblance to the Nantucket architecture and also have beautiful waterfronts, such as those found in Maine. Which brings us to the answer asked by a lot of the locals: “why Sooke?”

The Prestige Oceanfront Resort is unlike any resort on the Island. Its architecture is unique and has a ‘by the seaside’ flair. Modelled after a Hawaiian resort, the resort opened its doors in February 2011. Overnight, it became one of the Island’s hottest wedding venues for both high style and intimate weddings of local and destination couples.

“It’s perfect for us,” one of the production crew told me. “It has ‘the look’ … because it is what it is … a place where a lot of weddings happen,” he went on to say. “You can’t fake it … and it does have the style and look we were going after for a wedding that was written to take place on Nantucket.”

The 120 member crew is not unlike the size of a typical wedding who book at the resort. “We’ve got everything here,” one of the production staff tells me. “The crew have very comfortable rooms … probably more than we usually get on a remote shoot.” “We have all our locations wrapped in one compact area - from the outside gazebo where weddings often take place - to the courtyard (Palm Terrace) surrounded by flowers and palm trees - to the ballrooms and best of all, we’re on the water with gorgeous ocean and mountain views.”


The lobby before the crew.  "Everything is already here ... we don't need to set dress to make it look like a resort on the East Coast."
Before the crew moves in.
Small details like this shell were already in place to add authenticity.
B camera getting shot in the lobby.jpg
DOP Tony Metchie checks the light falling on actors Vanessa Marcil and Aaron Craven.
"We save a lot of time for setups because the lobby already has "the look."

the crew: a small army of committed artists

The film, which aired in June 2016 on the Hallmark Channel was Executive Produced by Maura Dunbar, an American, while the production company selected to actually bringing the ‘tech’ crew to Sooke was Qube Film based out of Vancouver. Its executive Navid Soofi was on set, quietly watching his crew go through the paces. Key creatives on set included Canadian-born Director David Winning and Director of Photography Anthony Metchie, from Vancouver.

I could tell the key production crew had worked together before. They moved in unison, without a lot of dialogue. Everyone knew what was needed to get done. Each set is different. Each has its own demands and there are bound to be ‘hiccups’ e.g. the weather, that threatens to throw a film off balance. Throughout the process, the crew adapted and kept moving forward, with the Prestige Oceanfront Resort as its scenic set piece.

The rain falls ... but the crew pushes on.
Director, Exec. Producer and 1st AD watch playback in their 'video village'

kudos for the hotel

In every production there are those who stand in front of the camera and those who prefer to remain behind the lens. Darren Robson is of the latter. The young Production Manager was tasked with keeping the film on budget and on time. It’s a job that not a lot of people can handle. You’re dealing with creative individuals on one hand who are trying to bring their vision to life (including director, director of photography and actors, etc.) and then you have the ‘business side of the equation’ which is equally as challenging. Darren hopped around the resort, going from the board room (where the production staff were handling all the paper aspects of the film), and over to set, dealing with potential delays and generally trying to keep the ship upright and sailing straight, so to speak.

When asked about his experience at the Resort, he replied: “the hotel was beautiful, the staff helped us with everything that I needed when asked and were very accommodating. If required in the future we would definitely consider returning. They made our ‘wedding dreams’ come true.”

Morning breaks over Sooke Harbour.  The view from Room 222 at the Resort.
The crew stay back as a scene is shot with the background actors on the Palm Terrace
Some thought Production Manager, Darren Robson's phone was glued to his ear

the stars

“It really is beautiful here,” David Sutcliffe told me. Sutcliffe, born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is best known for playing Christopher Hayden, Rory Gilmore‘s father and Lorelai Gilmore‘s on-and-off boyfriend, on the CW show Gilmore Girls.

He’s easy going (and some of the female extras said “easy on the eyes) … with a sly smile that asks you to join in, as he makes everyone comfortable using himself as a foil for his own self-deprecating barbs. He’s a total professional, but knows how to joke at his own expense commenting: “I know … I’m just a pretty face.” I discovered that he’s much more than that. When he’s not acting, he’s honing his creative voice by directing his own documentary and wants to continue to explore that world. A grad at the University of Toronto, he played varsity basketball before sustaining a career-ending injury. Typical of many actors, he waited tables at a local greasy spoon. I suspect that experience helped him feel comfortable around people - and for people to feel comfortable around him.

Playing opposite Sutcliffe, Vanessa Marcil acted in a number of theatre productions before landing the role of Brenda Barrett on the soap opera General Hospital. No slouch on the award front, Vanessa garnered three Daytime Emmy Awards nominations for her portrayal and won an Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actress.

Both actors had the ability to poke fun on set between takes - but when the AD (assistant director) yelled “Roll cameras. Roll sound.” they each fell into their roles with the ease of seasoned professionals.


Vanessa Marcil's in character as Dr. Kate Lawrence
The wedding as seen through the frame.jpg
The wedding scene takes place in the gazebo. Soap fans can now brag "I got married in the same spot as 'Brenda' on General Hospital."
Actors David Sutcliffe and Vanessa Marcil share a laugh between takes
The Happy Bride and Groom.jpg
Shooting the wedding scene in the gazebo ... where a lot of the Oceanfront Resort's bride and groom usually have their weddings as well

THE STORY

Love expert Dr. Kate Lawrence is a high-profile blogger who gives “honest” dating and relationship advice to her fans. Always looking for good content, what better way to celebrate her own engagement than by letting her fans watch her plan her own wedding to a handsome businessman named Bryan? It seems that Bryan has everything going for him, he is polished and intelligent, but he is not in love with Kate. Finally, Bryan makes his feelings known and calls off the wedding engagement at a highly publicized event. Now, a devastated Kate is not only dealing with the shock of the breakup with her longtime fiancé, she will experience tremendous humiliation in front of thousands of fans, which is sure to jeopardize her career as a love expert. Just as she is about to face the greatest discomfiture of her life, Lucas Wright swoops in and helps Kate dupe her fans by pretending to be her fiancé. Lucas is a former a high school classmate who has had a crush on Kate for years. He isn’t as polished as Bryan, but he’s cute enough and plays the role of fiancé well.

As you can see in the above photos, David and Vanessa (in character), with dog in a bow tie as a witness, get married in a simple ceremony, overlooking Sooke Harbour (standing in for Nantucket). Many other couples, although perhaps not as famous, have stood in exactly the same spot exchanging their vows at the resort, and many more may join them after viewing the finished Hallmark film on their own tv while leafing through wedding magazines and browsing Pinterest for inspiration. Unlike many locations, Prestige Oceanfront Resort is pet-friendly so your fur-family can join you for the exchanging of the vows, just as they did in the film.

Local background actors, Winnie and Valerie.
Look closely to see if you can spot the steady cam camera floating through the crowd of actors
First Assistant Director Michelle wrangles her background actors

local actors

If there ever were a more patient group on a film set than the ‘background,’ I’m sure I don’t know the answer. What a bunch of troopers! First off, you have to understand that making a film - any film - takes time and a lot of waiting around between takes. For the background actors, it means that between takes they usually either have to stand around (like penguins) chatting with people they’ve just met, while keeping one ear glued for the First Assistant Director who could yell “background … places” at any moment, or they head off back to the holding area where they nibble on endless snacks put out by craft services (the Resort took on that culinary role). It’s not a glamorous role by any means - but I was struck by the smiles on the faces of the extras who made the daily trip to the Resort from places like Victoria and even as far as Nanaimo with the hope and prospect of being seen for a quick few seconds in the background of a Hallmark movie.

“It’s deluxe,” Victoria native Winnie Cooper said, when I asked her if this was her first time seeing the Oceanfront Resort. “I just chatted with a hotel guest who had a fantastic time,” she went on to say. “And the view is incredible.” Winnie, a veteran thespian who, for years, took her small stage around the Island for the milk producers, was once a featured player in a Netflix film called “The Duke.” “I was a doctor,” she went on to say. The pull of the stage is what drew her to make the trip from BC’s capital to Sooke and she was revelling in the experience.


Second camera catches the slate
Focus pulling is critical.  In film slang he's a Softie – the first AC or focus puller
David and Tony plot the shot on an iPhone ... yes, there's an app for that
As the sun dips over Sooke Harbour, DOP Tony Metchie checks his exposure
Two cameras covered every scene for alternate angles

the camera crew

I’ve always had a soft spot for the camera department. There’s a lot riding on what the camera department does and when you’re working on a made for TV show, the pressure is amped up a notch due to the fact you have to get through a lot of set ups in a day.

On this shoot, the DOP (Director of Photography) is Anthony Metchie. I had a chance to chat to Tony in between setups (while waiting for actors to appear, scripts to change, decisions to be made) and I found his story of how he got to where he was today inspiring. He literally worked his way up from the bottom - doing menial jobs in the industry, always working toward his dream of becoming a cinematographer. He’s achieved that and it’s nice to see a good guy get ahead.

As I move to capture another shot, he tells me “It’s beautiful here.” For the next few moments, at least, Anthony looks peaceful staring out on to Sooke Harbour as the sun begins to set.


Executive Chef Robert Vandermeer
fruit tray.jpg
Dan Houle, Corporate Operations Mgr.

a crew needs fuel

When a crew spends most of their day working on their feet, sometimes in cool and damp weather outside, food is an important element of the production. Food is fuel and to keep the machine running was a task the Resort had to deal with. Every day, from morning through the afternoon, Executive Chef Rob Vandermeer and Corporate Operations Manger Dan Houle had to feed a hundred and twenty people from the production crew. “They were great to work with,” Dan told me in the West Coast Grill one day. “No extra demands and not a lot of culinary challenges like allergies,” he went on to say. “They did, however, give us a new challenge for us. We had to deliver hot meals for the crew to a remote beach … going off site is something new for us.” Darren Robson, the Production Manager on set knows that a well-fed crew usually ends up helping the production process. “The catering needs that I required were right on the money,” he said.

After a couple of days on set, it was time to head off on to other adventures. Shadowing the film crew was a nice break - I don’t know why, but I enjoyed watching everyone else work around me. I know that I was working as well, but it didn’t seem like it when I watched guys pick up huge tripods, large white silks (to soften the bright sun) and deal with moving their ‘video village’ (all the monitors the director and producers watched as the actors acted) from one spot on the Oceanfront Resort’s grounds to another. I was fortunate enough to have a single camera (small and silent) a couple of lenses and was able to stand off to the side and pick my moments while watching others do all the heavy lifting.

For those who have been married at the Prestige, you can understand how its secluded luxury has made it such a hot spot for both local and destination weddings. Now that it’s had its “Hollywood moment” I’m sure there will be brides who will aspire to be married in the same spot as David and Vanessa did for their Hallmark movie - especially if you’re a fan of General Hospital or the Gilmore Girls.

For my “Martini” (movie slang for the last shot of the day … the next shot comes out of a glass) I’ve got a high angle shot from my hotel room on the forth floor … overlooking David and Vanessa’s scene 92 as David gets down on one knee to propose.

AND THAT’S A CUT!

The "Martini" ... last shot of the day.  David Sutcliffe makes his proposal to Vanessa Marcil on the Oceanfront Resort's dock