“This is making Christmas in August,” said Vancouver-based producer Ivan Hayden as he stood on the dock in front of Gibsons Public Market amidst Christmas lights and artificial snow. Behind him, sailboats shrouded in smoke lilted in the harbour. “Amidst wildfire season,” he added.
Hayden headed up a crew of more than 75 people who were on location throughout Gibsons shooting a Hallmark Christmas film currently going by the titles Christmas Carousel and A Godwink Christmas. Canadian actors Paul Campbell and Kimberly Sustad will star in the film, as well as Kathie Lee Gifford.
Ornaments, lights, Santa’s sleigh, a 20-foot Christmas tree, a makeshift Christmas market and artificial snow gave the town a festive look for the week-long shoot.
Despite the decorations, he said the haze and smoke obscured the backgrounds they came for. “Certainly some of the scope is diminished because we can’t see the water because of the haze,” he said before adding that restricted visibility from smoke is similar to filming in foggy conditions, and winter fog is common in the Nantucket area, where the story takes place.
Wildfire smoke wasn’t the only disturbance to mar production. While shooting on the government wharf the evening of Aug. 21, a man who Hayden said “appeared to be assaulted and doused in pepper spray” crawled onto set. The crew’s first-aid team attended to the victim, dousing him in milk to wash out the spray.
RCMP Const. Karen Whitby later confirmed that the altercation occurred in Gibsons Harbour, and arose from a dispute over the ownership of a 27-foot Catalina sailboat named The Salty Dream. The victim was physically assaulted and sprayed with bear spray and the accused was arrested later that evening at 9 p.m. and charged with assault with a weapon.
“We did our best to ease his suffering until the RCMP and ambulance could arrive,” said Hayden of the victim. He said the incident held up the shooting “a little bit,” but that “there’s never any doubt, when there’s someone in trouble we need to help when we can.”
The team spent a week in Gibsons as part of its two-week shooting schedule, shooting on and underneath the government wharf, at the marina and at a house near the Langdale Ferry Terminal.
“We were looking around on the Mainland and couldn’t find anything that had this kind of beauty and scope,” said Hayden. He said the production team finally landed on Gibsons because of its history in show business. “It’s a film-friendly town,” he said.
Wendy Gilbertson, director of parks and cultural services with the Town of Gibsons, said the Town was contacted in June about the project. She said the filming provided a boost to the local economy, with the sizable crew making purchases at local businesses such as hardware stores and restaurants. “They hire extras, they’ve hired security and traffic control,” Gilbertson said. The team required a number of permits to get permission to shoot, including a $500 application.