SUBMITTED BY CHESAPEAKE SHORES The cast from ‘Chesapeake Shores’ pose for a photo in season three of the hit Hallmark series. The cast and crew are now back in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area shooting season four.

‘Chesapeake Shores’ helps build film crews, business and tourism in mid-Island area

Original series among most-watched in Hallmark Channel’s history.

The local economy has improved thanks to the hit Hallmark series ‘Chesapeake Shores’, and the cast and crew are now back shooting the fourth season in Parksville Qualicum Beach.

“Last year we spent upwards of $5 million locally,” said producer Matt Drake, adding that more than 10,000 room nights were booked in hotels during season three, and the show hired 60 per cent of their crew base locally.

‘Chesapeake Shores’ has been dubbed one of the most-watched original series in Hallmark Channel’s history.

Anne Dodson, executive director of the Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce, said having the show filmed in the area has created a marked increase in “film tourism”.

“The show has developed quite a fan base and we’ve had people from as far away as Georgia in the Qualicum Beach Visitor Centre last year asking for directions to popular film locations.” Dodson said the show has helped create jobs within the film industry, and helped create facilities, such as the Vancouver Island Film Studios.

Owner of Vancouver Island Film Studios, Ron Chiovetti, said that he was approached at the end of the show’s first season to provide safe, secure storage for movie props. At the beginning of season two, the crew was struggling to find a good location for a construction shop to build props.

RELATED: Chesapeake Shores to bring more jobs to Parksville Qualicum Beach

Chiovetti decided to build what was needed.

“I decided to build a building designed specifically for this use,” he explained. “We were building additional storage buildings and they suggested that if we built them higher and had the proper clear span structure, they would be interested in having a sound stage to rent for filming.”

In season three, the buildings were complete and ‘Chesapeake Shores’ rented the construction shop and two sound stages. This year, the producers will rent the space again, Chiovetti confirmed.

There is more than three million square feet of studio space in the Vancouver area, Chiovetti added, and until Vancouver Island Film Studios started building its studios, there was nothing on the Island. “Our 30,000 square feet [of studio space] is only one per cent of the total in B.C. but we are off to a great start and we are hoping to attract many more productions to the Island.”

When ‘Chesapeake Shores’ first started filming in the area, it was pretty risky, Drake said. That’s because they didn’t have a crew here, or the infrastructure needed for filming. He said that it has been great to see Vancouver Island Film Studios grow and it’s been very successful for both sides. Crew members at Chesapeake Shores have also developed relationships with local car dealerships, printers, graphic designers and a number of other suppliers, Drake said.

“It’s great to be able to call local vendors up and send the business their way.”

Drake said producers weren’t expecting to base the show entirely in the area, but once they found Qualicum Beach, and were welcomed warmly by the Town and residents, they decided to create a home base in Parksville Qualicum Beach.

“Victoria has beautiful beaches and is a fantastic region, but there was just this quiet, calm, serene feeling in Oceanside,” he said. They have also filmed in Parksville, Nanaimo and surrounding areas, he added, and those regions have also been supportive, but the crew’s “ask” has been the more substantial in Qualicum Beach, he clarified. The show films throughout the District 69 area, including Coombs, Errington and Nanoose Bay.

This year, producers are aiming to hire at least 60 per cent local again, Drake said.

“I think it’s important. The least we can do is give back to the community for all the time and attention, and sometimes delays, we cause. And I think it’s important to build a crew base here and it has certainly helped us.”

Last year, Drake was impressed with North Island College’s TV and Film Crew Training program, which began in 2017, and continues at the college, he noted.

“That was great to see and we were an active participant and supporter of that program. We were able to hire a large number of those people and some are coming back.”

Drake said because ‘Chesapeake Shores’ has helped build a great crew base in the region, the area will be even more appealing for producers and shows considering the area.

“I think it just means hopefully more and more work can land here.”

Drake said there is a lot packed into the fourth season, and he thinks fans are really going to love where the show is heading.

A spinoff ‘Chesapeake Shores’ movie is also in the works. To learn more about that and view highlights from past episodes visit www.hallmarkchannel.com/chesapeake-shores.

By Lissa Alexander

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