Last night the Distillery District was transformed back in time to the 1840’s. The paving stones were glistening with moisture and shimmering under the lights of five artificial moons. The red brick buildings were lit with wall sconces, and there were lanterns and lights in all the green paneled windows. Even the bell tower atop Bldg 36 was glowing with light. It was very pretty.
To add to the scene, there were about twenty ‘extras’ dressed in period clothing, including some people wearing seriously crappy looking shoes, and several horses and carriages with wooden wheels walking up and down the cobblestone lanes. Half a dozen old barrels and wooden crates and bunches of loose straw helped complete the picture.
The opening shot centered on the busy street opposite Bldg 56, which had been made-over into the glowing exterior of the Magic Eye Séance House. A film camera on a crane panned over the horses passing below in the street and over the whole scene to take in entire wide shot looking north. That was the money shot. In the same movement the camera then craned down on the open door of bldg 56 as a group of well dressed ladies emerged onto the street. The lens then found and held Natalie Dormer, who recently played Anne Boleyn in HBO series The Tudors, just as she was putting on her shawl. The camera followed her as she stepped out on the sidewalk and into a waiting carriage. This is the first glimpse in the show of a character named Celeste Chevalier (28, a beautiful spitfire), in the pilot TV show called ‘Poe’. Natalie’s character is the antithesis of Christopher Egan as Edgar Allen Poe, and Tabrett Bethell (The Legend of the Seeker) has been cast as Poe’s muse.
A TV Pilot is a test show that’s paid for by the network. It’ll get funded as a TV series depending on its success or failure. Sadly if the show doesn’t test well it may turn out that nobody ever sees the piece. There’s a 50/50 chance that nobody except the producers will ever see the production that was shot last night. This was the fourth day of shooting in their 14 day shooting schedule and the crew was in good spirits despite the damp weather.
Directed by Alex Graves, the ABC network TV pilot is being photographed by Anette Haellmigk. After last night’s demonstration, Anette could properly be described as a ‘big lighter’. There were as many as six 18,000 watt HMI lamps suspended from four different ‘cherry picker’ style black lighting cranes. These giant erections were perched at odd angles all around the property.
The center of street was lit with a twenty foot ‘moon cube’ in which half a dozen or more 4K fresnels are pointed down through a series of diffusers. That rig was suspended by another crane out over the street and raised and lowered as necessary. And finally the boom operator had to compete for airspace with an electric wielding a giant Japanese lantern on a ‘lighting pole’ which was also suspended over the actresses during their minute long walk-and-talk on the sidewalk.
The property has doubled for many unique locations over the years. This time it has been made over as 1840’s Boston, but previous to that it was James Mink’s 1830’s Toronto, starring Lou Gossett Jr and Rachael Crawford. It was a Nazi compound in the Darkman movies, and I was on the crew when Russell Crowe was there shooting Cinderella Man. Those are just some of the movies I remember working one, but there are plenty more.
The Distillery District in one of Canada’s most popular locations for film directors hoping to recreate an urban 1800s exterior setting.
More than just authentic scenery, the buildings and cobbled lanes are the perfect location for period movies because of the convenient parking, ample washrooms, and amenities offered to production companies. For example, it’s handy having large empty event spaces which can become ‘holding’ for extras and animals, and lunch.