Hollywood embraces natural beauty of Oak Bay

Cast and crew of FOX television series Gracepoint settle into Island life; find time to explore west coast

High-wattage lights have lit up Oak Bay Avenue, flatbed trucks of film gear lined the street along Clover Point and local actors have found their way into background performer and stand-in roles.

The upcoming FOX television series Gracepoint has had a visible presence in the community since shooting began at the end of January, and come the 2014-15 season, Greater Victoria will have a very visible primetime presence – one that may appear slightly drearier than its creators had first envisioned.

“It’s been a very hospitable environment,” said Carolyn Bernstein, executive producer of Gracepoint, an American version of Broadchurch, the UK’s most-watched new drama of 2013.

“Everywhere you look it’s so incredibly beautiful. We couldn’t have asked for a more glorious place to shoot. We just need it to stop raining. Every day I wake up and look at the weather report. It’s wet.”

Locations from Sidney to Victoria will double as the Northern Californian town of Gracepoint in the one-hour who-dun-it which follows the mysterious death of a young boy found dead on a beach beneath a cliff face from which he may have fallen. Victoria was an instant fit, Bernstein said.

“We sort of had this Eureka moment. All of that natural beauty with all of that water everywhere, and with the mountains in the background – it was so breathtakingly beautiful, it made sense in terms of the picture we wanted to paint of this fictional town.”

Leading the way into Gracepoint are David Tennant of Dr. Who and Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn. Veteran actor Nick Nolte is also cast.

“It’s a crime drama on the one hand,” Bernstein said. “On the other hand, it’s a portrait of all of these diverse characters in this little town, their secrets, their relationships – their a part of the fabric of the town but we look into the individual lives of each and every one of them in a very intimate way.”

The production team at Shine America chose to bring the shoot, set to wrap by the end of May, to Victoria primarily for creative reasons, but the financial benefits were an added incentive.

“There is also a very strong and skilled crew base that we’re drawing on, primarily from Vancouver.

“When we looked at Northern California, they didn’t have a crew base that we could draw from that was anywhere near by the locations we looked at. For this particular show, all signs pointed north.”

Mid-way through the shoot, the provincial government also reinstated the distant location regional tax credit, a six-per-cent tax credit available for new film productions in the Capital Region. However, that credit won’t apply to Gracepoint unless it returns for a second season.

Despite the financial incentives, Bernstein stresses it’s the look of the show that has drawn her team to Victoria this winter, and hopefully next year as well if FOX picks up Gracepoint for a second season.

“It’s such a common thing these days, that American studios, when it makes sense will shoot in B.C. I think it’s very expected right now.

“It would have been nice if L.A. proper could have worked. It would have made our lives easier in certain ways, but the show really called for a more wild and rugged coastal look that led us to the Island.”

The locale, she added, has motivated the cast to get out and enjoy some of the natural places on the Island – with or without a rain jacket.

“They’re really taking advantage of the natural beauty. They’re going hiking; they’re getting out on the water. They’re really enjoying being in this beautiful place. They’ll probably enjoy it when it gets a little warmer.”

Filming for Gracepoint began Jan. 28 and will continue in Oak Bay for the next several months.

The 10-episode television series will air on FOX during its upcoming 2014-15 season.

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