Things have returned to normal in downtown Chemainus after an eventful week of filming for the Hallmark movie The Baker’s Son.
The block of Willow Street between Victoria and Mill Streets became home base over five days for Front Street Pictures crew, cast members and for the community to get a glimpse of the action. The public received a bird’s eye view of the incredible set-up time and numerous takes each scene requires.
It was a love affair in true Hallmark style, with the production bringing in much-needed tourist dollars absent during COVID-19 to the Chemainus area. Filming continued Monday and Tuesday in Cowichan Bay before moving over to Brentwood Bay Wednesday and Thursday and then to Oak Bay to complete the project.
Chemainus struck a chord as a filming site that will surely prove beneficial for future visits after COVID restrictions are lifted.
“Chemainus has been fantastic,” said Joey Plager of Los Angeles, executive producer of The Baker’s Son and a 37-year veteran of the industry plus college.
“It’s great to find an accessible, workable small town look. The local merchants have been very cooperative. We got a lot done in a short period of time.”
“The town’s been great,” added director Mark Jean of Victoria, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, who has a masters degree in directing from the American Film Institute and counts about 25 Hallmark movies to his credit. “It’s been a super good place for us to shoot.
“I’d say every show is different and every show has its unique challenges. The truth is you never know what it’s going to be. We make these movies in 15 days. They’re expected to look like any other movie you see. It’s a huge challenge to create quality in that amount of time.
“Making these movies is a bit like doing a sprinted marathon.”
By comparison, Jean added, the normal Hollywood movie can easily take from 4-6 months to shoot.
Dylan Staniforth, the unit manager for the Baker’s Son who oversees the group while shooting on set, said everyone on site recognized the importance of their presence for the town’s tourism-based economy.
“It’s mutually beneficial to call attention to this area and it’s overwhelmingly beautiful for us to film here,” he said.
“Because everything is so close together, logistically, we’ve been able to film faster than usual.”
Staniforth said the typical 12-hour shooting schedule was reduced to around 10. That was particularly beneficial for staff commuting from Victoria to make the length of their days more manageable.
The crew was set up with all its needs within one block, including a food truck, but branched into the town to support some of the surrounding businesses.
“I’ve gone into a number of the stores around here,” Staniforth indicated.
“We’ve been able to try all the treats of the town here and it’s been very good.”
Staniforth said the shop facades along Willow Street were ideal for the film’s needs and didn’t require much adjustment, other than some touch-ups and decorating.
“For us to build all of this would cost a lot of money,” he reasoned. “For us to rent all these shops for a week is less money.”
Some of the industry tricks of the trade will be evident in the final product. For example, the front of the Owl’s Nest was converted into the Duval Boulangerie outside, but the indoor scenes from the establishment will be taken from True Grain Bread in Cowichan Bay.
The Baker’s Son stars Brant Daughtery in the lead role as Matt. Eloise Mumford portrays Annie. Daughtery, born in Mason, Ohio, and Mumford from Olympia, Washington are the two better-known U.S. cast members.
Maude Green is Nicole and Haig Sutherland as Walter Rasmussen, the mayor of Windward, Washington, the fictional town that Chemainus and the other Island communities combine to portray, are the other main characters.
The plot revolves around Matt and Annie, who grew up together in the small island town, but he doesn’t realize he loves her. When Nicole arrives on the scene with a practicing ballet company, Matt falls for her.
Matt and his father own the local bakery in town.
In parallels to Chemainus, “the small island town gets most of their income from tourism,” noted Staniforth. “But they haven’t seen a lot of tourism for quite some time.”
The bakery is a big drawing card and “when he falls in love, his bread becomes very tasty,” Staniforth indicated.
A news crew from Seattle arrives to cover the ballet group’s practices. The publicity combined with Matt’s love interest means the town sees a major increase in tourism because of the bread’s quality.
The conflict in this show, Staniforth pinpoints, is tourism falls off and Matt’s bread doesn’t taste so great after Nicole leaves the island.
But in the end, Matt discovers his true love and triumphant mayor Walter declares “taste the bread!” that marks a resurgence in the product and burgeoning tourism again for the small community.
The anticipated broadcast date on the W Channel in mid-to-late June.
“I know for a fact everyone in Chemainus will watch this movie because Chemainus is in it,” laughed Staniforth.
“The script was written as a feature film,” said Jean. “It’s bigger than a Hallmark movie.
“The hardest part was having to cut things that were great about it. Hopefully, we’ve hung on to the heart and soul of this movie.”