What Ottawa’s new Film By-Law means for you

Ottawa City Council recently approved a new Film By-Law that will help streamline the film permitting process. We know this will be a period of transition for many – our office, the City, location managers and filmmakers – and we’re striving to make this process as smooth and seamless as possible.

We encourage all filmmakers to read the Film By-Law in its entirety to avoid surprises when applying for a film permit, but in the meantime, we’ve recapped some of the major changes you’ll notice.

Point of contact
The biggest change filmmakers will notice is that the OFO is no longer your contact for obtaining approvals to film on City of Ottawa property. Going forward, the City’s Event Central department will be the coordinating body for all filming and film-related parking requests on City property. As noted in the By-law, you’ll also need to apply to Event Central if you’re filming special effects or stunts on federal or private property, or if you’ll have replica weapons or emergency vehicles in the public view (regardless if you’re on private or public lands).

Event Central is no stranger to filming requests. The OFO has worked closely with Event Central for the past decade to process and issue filming approvals, and their relationships with other key departments and organizations in the city means they know who to turn to for quick action. Feel free to reach out to Event Central with any questions you have about filming on City property; they can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 613-580-2424 ext. 38368.

Applying for a permit
Location managers who are accustomed to our various forms will appreciate the City’s effort to simplify the application process by combining most forms into one. Information found on our production information form, filming approval application, and parking permit application are now included on one new filming permit application. Additional forms may be required depending on the production’s needs, and the insurance certificate and indemnification of the City are still required. As we contemplate post-pandemic filming protocols, it’s possible that additional information will be required to ensure safe filming environments.

Most requests for filming or parking on City property must be submitted to Event Central at least five business days in advance. As noted on the application’s sixth page, more complex requests requiring road closures, paid duty officers or other special permissions will take longer. Learn more about applying for permits on the City of Ottawa website.

Fees
The City offers filming permits at no cost; however, fees will still apply in special circumstances such as on-street parking, park rentals, and use of municipal facilities such as arenas and community centres. To minimize late requests in conjunction with the City’s User Service Fee Policy, a late fee of $200 for film applications submitted less than five days in advance of the film event has been developed. An additional $200 fee will apply should the film event require approvals from Traffic Management.

What does this mean for the film office?
Without the responsibility of processing filming requests, the film office can increase its focus on priority areas such as the development of the soundstage and creative hub, workforce development, research, and new marketing initiatives. It will also continue offering location support and assistance to foreign and local producers, connecting them to the locations, crew, and services that will bring their script to life.

This also doesn’t mean the film office won’t still be involved in the permitting process. We’ll continue to be informed of filming requests, and when needed, we’ll be there to provide expert advice to help maintain the city’s position as a film-friendly destination. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about filming in Ottawa – we’re here for you.

10 ways to support Ottawa’s arts, culture, and heritage sectors

We were pleased to collaborate with OMIC, Arts Network Ottawa, Ottawa Arts Council, and Ottawa Festivals to create this list of ways to support the local arts, culture, and heritage sectors. We hope you’ll continue supporting local artists until we can once again gather in theatres, music venues, galleries, and other cultural facilities,

So, you want to be a music composer?

Ever heard a film or television theme song, or another piece of music, and was transported back to when you first heard it? Maybe it’s the recognizable notes from Star Wars, Jaws, Halloween or Jurassic Park that conjure that memory or feeling. From comedy to horror, music has a way of evoking powerful emotions in audiences, often when words cannot.

We caught up with Serge Côté, a local award-winning composer for film and television, to learn more about scoring for film and TV. Serge has worked as a composer for the past two decades, creating music for over 1,000 episodes of TV series across many genres and styles. He’s received 14 nominations from the Academy of Canadian Film and Television, including Canadian Screen Awards, Gemini Awards and Prix Gémeaux, and has won several industry awards for his original compositions for national and international TV advertisements.

Can you begin by describing the role of a music composer for film and TV?
For film and TV, the composer’s job is to write music (a ‘score’) that heightens the emotional experience for the viewer when they see what’s playing out on screen (e.g., a car chase, a love scene). In addition to this, the composer often writes the opening theme or songs for the show or movie. Sometimes the songs are part of the score and sometimes songs are the music the characters listen to, like a song they hear playing on the radio or dance to. Basically, the composer creates any music the director feels will enhance their picture’s story.

Did you always want to pursue this type of work? How did you get started?
I sort of fell into this line of work. Out of high school and university, I wanted to make it big with a rock band. Through that initial interest, I got sidetracked as I made connections. I started with composing, arranging, and producing music for other artists, such as Alanis Morrissette and One 2 One, where I learned a lot from producer Leslie Howe. Then my friend, Dave Bigelow, suggested we team up and start working on TV projects. He’d just finished a course in film and TV broadcasting, and we were excited to enter the industry. Composing for TV and film just felt right to me, and I have been doing it ever since. I just love it.

What skills or training does a music composer need to be successful?
If by successful, you mean be able to make a career out of it, then I have a few suggestions. These are some things that helped me build my career!

  • Composing skills: I am classically trained on piano, and although I don’t think that’s a requirement, it certainly comes in handy at times. As a teenager, I also played the drums. I think my experience with rock, pop, and dance artists also helped carve my style and versatility. As a TV and film composer, you have to be able to understand music arrangements and instrumentation in many styles and genres. Variety is key. The music must interact properly with the scene and not be distracting or interfere with dialogue. Also, the more you write, the better you get. Practice, practice, practice.
  • Audio technical skills: You need those skills to record other musicians, to mix all components of your music, to fix audio problems, etc… Some people just don’t have the ear for it. You need to deliver a finished product that sounds as polished as possible.
  • The client is always right: You work for a client (director, producer, etc.) who requires you to understand what they want. You have to be open to changing your music, whether you agree with them or not. Unlike writing music for yourself (the sentimental artist), you cannot be attached to your work. At any time, you might be asked to modify or redo your work (but that’s never happened to me ;)). You may also have clients who don’t know what they want until they “hear it,” so you really have to discern what they are looking for.
  • Equipment: You need the proper gear to be able to produce your music. Technology keeps changing, and you have to keep up with that. However, you don’t need the best or latest gear. Early in my career, I only used a computer, good speakers and two external sound modules. I recently listened to some work from these years and I was surprised at how good it sounded. Just know your own software/gear and don’t cheap out on speakers! You may have the best music track, but no one will hire you if the sound quality is mediocre.
  • Deadlines and delivery: On television projects, you have to work fast and deliver on time. Very often you will receive your TV episode later than expected and you’ll need to work faster to still make the deadline. Be flexible, and ready to put in a combination of short and long days. A lot of my music for series is delivered to a post-production facility, like Affinity Productions, where audio engineer Jordan Bell would have already balanced the dialogue and added sound effects to complete a full mix of the episodes.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your profession?
The money! (Haha, just kidding). But really, I get to do what I love: music. Every time I start to create a music track, there’s that moment when it all starts to gel together. It makes me feel all energized and pumped; creativity flows until the track is finished. Sometimes, though, I just feel rewarded by how well the music works with a particular scene, especially when it was difficult to get there. It feels like magic to me. It is also very rewarding when the client says “I Love It!”

Which parts of your job do you find the most challenging?
At the start of a new series project, I either know exactly what to compose, or I am not quite sure. That can make me a bit uneasy: “what will I do this time?” I have to stay within each show’s parameters, so I start with looking for the right tone, the right palette of sounds, something that will be unique and inspiring. For each new project, I try to be original, to go outside my comfort zone. Sometimes the result is amazing and everyone loves it. Sometimes I think I created something cool and amazing, but the client had something more traditional or conventional in mind. That can be challenging, but I’m always happy with the end result.

Do you have any advice for local and Canadian composers with dreams of hearing their music in film or television?
Finding a young filmmaker/director (from film school or someone starting out) and offer to score their short film or project. It would give the composer experience, and perhaps from there, he would build a long-lasting professional relationship or partnership. Who knows? If that director grows to become successful, chances are that composer will be the one who ‘scored’ those films.

Working from Home as a Voice Actor

As most of us continue to work from home, many for the first time, the entire film and television industry has also adapted in the way it operates. Live-action production is paused but animated content is still being produced, and development on both the live-action and animation side is going strong. Another component of the industry that had to adjust to the current crisis is post-production. We chatted with Wayne Bartlett, President of award-winning post-production company Bartmart Audio, to learn more about his facility, how his team continues to provide services, and the advice he has for voice actors currently working at home. Wayne also recommends this Tonebenders podcast episode for further information on how voice actors can set up their home voice recording studios.

Wayne Bartlett, President of Bartmart Audio

Before we start, can you tell us a little bit about Bartmart Audio?
Bartmart Audio is a full-service boutique audio post-production facility which has been in business since 1996 – we actually opened on April Fools’ Day 24 years ago! The facility has three studios and our team does 5.1 mixing, dialogue editing, SFX design and edit, and live Foley, as well as a lot of voice recording and ADR. We do audio post for television series and corporate productions in both official languages, including all of Gusto Worldwide Media’s programming, and we recently completed episode 163 of Les Productions Slalom’s Mehdi et Val for Radio-Canada. That’s a lot of episodes, and a great show!

On the film side, we did audio post on Sacrifice, starring Cuba Gooding Jr., and Penthouse North, starring Michael Keaton and Michelle Monaghan. Both films were shot here in town and produced by Ottawa’s Michael Baker of Bunk 11 Pictures. We also record a ton of spoken word content and we’re very proud of our work.

We’ve been able to adapt quite quickly to the need for physical distancing, so we are currently up and running for dialogue edit, SFX, Foley, edit and mix. 

Studio 1, one of Bartmart’s three studios

What type of services is Bartmart Audio providing to voice actors who are currently working from home?
We’ve been helping voice actors in researching and purchasing equipment for home setups, if they don’t have a studio; we’re also doing Facetime meetings to see how their studios are set up. We offer suggestions regarding each studio so that they can deliver the best possible quality under these circumstances.

We’ve also been helping by applying a “fix it in post” philosophy to the raw voice files. We have the talent deliver their recordings to us and then we use our expertise to process the audio and get it as close as possible to the quality levels that we regularly deliver from Bartmart Audio.  There are also editorial services available so that the talent can focus on their read and not the recording process. We’ll take one long file, with all its mistakes and pickups, and edit it down to the final takes and a clean linear read of the script; cleaning up breaths, click and pops, and other extraneous noises that might have gotten into the raw recording.

We’re also advising people about the technologies available for connecting to clients, producers, and directors so that direction can take place in real time during the record.

Ultimately, for us, the actor’s performance is the most important thing, so we work with clients and talent to make the technology as invisible and transparent as possible. We do that all the time, so this current situation is just an extension of that belief.

Wayne and his co-worker Jada

For voice actors who are working from home for the first time, what type of equipment would you recommend they purchase?
Ah, the million-dollar question! That depends so heavily upon your available budget and on what you need to accomplish in your home studio. That’s something we’ve been helping with on a case by case situation. But, whatever the budget, I’d advise to put the money into the microphone as much as possible. Temporary sound treatment can be accomplished with household items so I would steer away from investing in that. Closed-ear headphones are also important to avoid bleed from the headphones to the microphone.

Is there a microphone you would recommend over another?
The options for microphones are vast, and finding a mic that fits a particular voice can be painstaking, but here are a few options that should work well at a few different budget levels.

A lower-end solution could be a USB mic. It won’t require a separate audio interface and so it will be fairly simple to set up. The Rode Podcaster, the Apogee Mic 96K, and the Audio Technica USB mic all come in at around $300. Another interesting solution is the Apogee One interface at $330. It is a full audio interface that also has a microphone built in that works well, with the ability to plug in an external mic which will up the quality significantly.

The next step up would be an interface and mic combination. The Apogee One, Rode AI-1 and the Focusrite Scarlett are all mic preamps and interfaces in one units and range from $170 to $330. Other than the Apogee One, you’ll need a microphone to be able to record with these, but the quality will be substantially better.

The Rode AI-1/NT-1 Kit includes interface, mic and mount in a package for $500. Separate mics to add to any of the interfaces mentioned would be the Audio Technica AT2035 at $220, the AKG C214 at $560 (a personal favourite) and the Shure SM7B at $580 (a classic VO mic).

If your budget is still higher, there is the Neumann TLM103 at $1,700. You’re now into the range of microphones used in some professional studios at this price range. In the stratosphere are the Neumann U87 and U89i which sell in the $4,000 range.

Studio 3, one of Bartmart’s three studios

Any other advice?
I’d say that you should try to record in a fair-sized room like a kids or guest bedroom. Don’t opt for a closet because the microphone will pick up the acoustic problems of the small space and those can be tough to deal with after the fact.

Don’t crowd the microphone, give it a few inches of space.

Consider hanging some big heavy blankets around the room to soak up the natural reverberation of the space. Beds, comfy chairs, pillows etc., will all help to make your space sound a little bit more like a completely acoustic treated studio. While you’re recording, turn off the furnace if possible as that noise will get into the recording.

I hope that everyone is able to stay safe during this time. It’s going to be tough, but if we stick together and support each other, we will get through this.

10 Made-in-Ottawa Animated Movies and Series that are Streaming Right Now

If you grew up in Canada in the 1980s or early 90s, or had young children during that time, it’s likely you’ll remember a little show called The Raccoons. The series followed the efforts of a trio of raccoons as they strived to save their beloved Evergreen Forest from industrialist aardvark Cyril Sneer. But did you know The Raccoons was animated right here in Ottawa? Many of your favourite animated shows, new and old, are produced in Canada’s capital for major entertainment firms like Disney, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Warner Bros.

Whether you’re looking for kid-friendly content, or something more adult-oriented, you’ll find several contemporary animated-in-Ottawa films and series streaming online. And if it’s nostalgia you’re after, you can find the first episode of The Raccoons on the marbleKids YouTube channel.

FILMS

Pirates Passage

Set in 1952 in the fictional town of Grey Rocks, Nova Scotia, Pirates Passage tells the story of a seafaring captain who becomes a friend and mentor to a bullied 12-year-old boy. Several Canadian actors lent their voices to the project, including Donald Sutherland as Captain Johnson, Carrie-Anne Moss, Megan Follows, Colm Feore, Gordon Pinsent, and more. Sutherland also produced and co-wrote the film based on William Gilkerson’s critically acclaimed novel. The film was animated by PIP Animation and is one of the only feature length animated films to be produced in Ottawa. You can watch Pirates Passage for free on CBC Gem.

The Girl in the Hallway


The Girl in the Hallway is a short, 2D stop motion film directed and animated by local visual artist Valerie Barnhart, with words by American slam poet Jamie DeWolf. It’s based on DeWolf’s heartbreaking podcast about Xiana Fairchild, a 7-year-old Indigenous girl in California who was abducted and murdered by serial killer Curtis Dean Anderson. The film screened at prestigious festivals around the world, such as Annecy and Stuttgart, and won the 2019 Vimeo Staff Pick Award at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Visit the film’s website for more information, or stream it on Vimeo.

TV SERIES 

Hilda

Hilda is a Netflix TV series based on the British children’s graphic novel series written and illustrated by Luke Pearson. It follows the adventures of the fearless Hilda and her friends as they travel to the city of Trolberg, encountering mysterious animals along the way. The show, whose second season drops this fall, is animated by Ottawa’s Mercury Filmworks in partnership with Netflix and Silvergate Media. The show has received numerous awards, including a BAFTA Children’s Award, Daytime Emmy Award, and Annie Award, and was nominated for a Peabody Award.

The Last Kids On Earth

The Last Kids On Earth was the first project for Atomic Cartoon’s Ottawa team following the company’s expansion to the city. Also based on an illustrated novel for streaming giant Netflix, it tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who teams up with his friends when his town is invaded by zombies and monsters. Nick Wolfhard voices Jack Sullivan, the main character, while Mark Hamill, Catherine O’Hara, Bruce Campbell, and Rosario Dawson voice supporting roles. The first season was released last fall with a second season scheduled to drop on April 17; a third season has also already been confirmed.

Mickey Mouse Shorts

Yes, everyone’s favourite animated mouse is brought to life right here in Ottawa: the Mickey Mouse shorts, available on YouTube and Disney+, are animated by Mercury Filmworks for Disney Television Animation. The Emmy-winning shorts feature Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck and the rest of the gang as they tackle sticky, if not funny, predicaments in international locales like Paris, Venice, and Tokyo.

Mercury Filmworks also lent their expertise to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, a new ride at Walt Disney Studios that is based on the shorts. 

Wandering Wenda

Viewers may be familiar with Ottawa-born author Margaret Atwood’s other small-screen adaption, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but did you know Atwood also wrote children’s books?

Inspired by Atwood’s The Wide World of Wandering Wenda, PIP Animation animated Wandering Wenda – a series of 26 eight-minute episodes for the CBC. The show follows Wenda and her best friends, Wu and Wesley Woodchuck, as they embark on adventures full of excitement and alliteration. The globe-trotting episodes are all available on CBC Gem.

DC Super Hero Girls

Jam Filled Studios partnered with DC and Warner Brothers to animate the DC Super Hero Girls television series for The Cartoon Network. More recently, the Ottawa-based company created 52 companion shorts that are all available for free on YouTube. This empowering series follows the younger versions of Diana Prince (Wonder Woman), Barbara Gordon (Batgirl), Kara Danvers (Supergirl), and others as they fight evil while facing the challenges of being a teenager. The shorts range between two and four minutes, making them an appealing length for younger viewers whose attention span may be limited.

 The Loud House

With four seasons under its belt and a fifth on the way, Nickelodeon’s The Loud House, animated by Jam Filled Studios, is consistently one of the top-rated children’s animated series on American television. The series follows 11-year-old Lincoln Loud, a middle child with 10 sisters, and the chaos created by such a large household. The series won Daytime Emmy Awards in 2019 for best children’s animated series and best writing for an animated program, and was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for its depiction of a same-sex couple.

Based on the success of The Loud House, a spin-off series called The Casagrandes was created, also animated by Jam Filled. The Loud House is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video with the Nick+ add-on.

Trailer Park Boys: The Animated Series

If it’s adult humour you’re looking for, you’re in luck – the first season of the new Trailer Park Boys series, animated by Big Jump Entertainment, is currently streaming on Netflix, with a second season set to drop this April or May. For those unfamiliar with the original live-action version, it was a Canadian mockumentary television series portraying the lives of a group of residents living in the fictional Sunnyvale Trailer Park in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The animated version picks up where the show’s 12th season ended, with the boys finding themselves in jail and transformed into cartoon versions of themselves.

F is for Family

Another option for mature viewers is the Netflix comedy F is for Family, also animated by Ottawa’s Big Jump Entertainment. The series is produced by Gaumont International Television and Vince Vaughn’s company Wild West Television, and was created by stand-up comic Bill Burr. Based on Burr’s childhood experience in Massachusetts, the series follows the lives of the Murphy’s, a dysfunctional Irish-American family living in the suburbs during the 1970s. Burr voices main character Frank Murphy and is joined by a supporting cast featuring Laura Dern, Sam Rockwell, and Justin Long.

With a fourth season set to launch this year, F is for Family is the second longest-running Netflix Original animated show (BoJack Horseman is the first).

Bonus: Wild Kratts

Everyone’s favourite zoologist brothers, Martin and Chris Kratt, travel to different corners of the world to meet amazing animals in this entertaining and educational animated series. The show is currently in its fifth season and frequently holds the #1 spot in the US across all networks for kids 4-8 and kids 6-11. A team of animators in both Ottawa and Toronto help bring the series to life, contributing to the show’s success and many awards and nominations, including three 2020 Canadian Screen Award nominations for Best Animated Program or Series, Best Direction – Animation, and Best Sound – Animation. Episodes of the Wild Kratts are currently available on Netflix and YouTube.

 

10 made-in-Ottawa movies and series that are currently streaming

To say these are challenging times would be an understatement. With productions shut down for the foreseeable future, many crew and actors have found themselves out of work, along with workers in other sectors. While we work with organizations and government entities to ensure the film and television industry – and its workforce – have the capacity to recover, we also think it’s important, now more than ever, to promote made-in-Ottawa content. The following films and television series were all shot in Ottawa with local crew, were mostly produced by Ottawa-based producers, and feature local talent. Since they’re all available on popular on-demand streaming services, you can practice social distancing (seriously, stay home) while supporting Ottawa’s film and television industry, and its dedicated workforce.

MOVIES

 I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

Photo courtesy of Albert Camicioli

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, written and directed by Oz Perkins, was the first Netflix Original film to shoot in Ottawa. A mostly local crew of over a hundred people worked on the film, which involved building the interior of a house inside a warehouse in the city’s east end. The movie features Golden Globe winner Ruth Wilson as Lily, a live-in nurse caring for retired horror novelist Iris Blum, played by Paula Prentiss; Bob Balaban and Lucy Boynton also star in the slow-burning horror film. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, which was co-produced by ZED.film and Go Insane Films, had its world premiere at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Photo courtesy of Petr Maur

Oz Perkins’ first foray as writer-director was The Blackcoat’s Daughter (originally titled February). The film premiered at TIFF a year before I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House and would later be picked up by indie distribution company A24. The film stars Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton as two students who are stranded at their boarding school when their parents fail to pick them up for winter break. Strange and increasingly horrific incidents start happening on campus, with the University of Guelph Kemptville Campus serving as the boarding school setting. The film was largely shot in and around Kemptville, including on Manotick Main Street, and also stars Emma Roberts, James Remar, and Lauren Holly. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video and on Kanopy, a free on-demand streaming service accessible to public library cardholders.

Awakening the Zodiac

Photo courtesy of Petr Maur

Awakening the Zodiac is a thriller that follows a couple, played by Shane West and Leslie Bibb, who purchase the contents of storage locker only to discover home videos that seemingly belong to the never-captured Zodiac killer. Many well-known Canadian actors appear in the Sony Pictures film, including Matt Craven, Nicholas Campbell, Kenneth Welsh, and Stephen McHattie. Awakening the Zodiac was produced locally by Bunk 11 Pictures and directed by Jonathan Wright, who also directed last year’s Christmas Jars, another shot-in-Ottawa film. The film was nominated for three DGC Awards and won the Production Design category thanks to Lisa Soper’s efforts in transforming Almonte into rural Virginia; Shirley’s Bay in Ottawa is also featured in the film. Subscribers to Crave’s Movies + HBO package can watch the film here.

House at the End of the Street

Photo courtesy of Albert Camicioli

Who would have known that when House at the End of the Street was filming in Ottawa in 2010, a soon-to-be superstar was in our midst? Jennifer Lawrence had already proved her acting chops with Winter’s Bone, but had not yet been cast as the lead in the Hunger Games trilogy, the films that would cement her as a household name.

In House at the End of the Street, Lawrence played Elissa Cassidy, a teenage girl who moves to a small town with her mother Sarah (Elizabeth Shue). Things get complicated when Elissa learns that a double murder happened at the nearby house, and befriends the massacre’s only survivor, Ryan (Max Theriot). A lot of the filming took place in Metcalfe, located in the south end of the city, which is where the Cassidy’s house was located, while Algonquin College doubled for Elissa’s high school. Other filming locations include Ryan Farm Park in Nepean and Rene’s Corner in Carlsbad Springs. The film is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

At First Light

Photo courtesy of Petr Maur

Ready for something less horror, more sci-fi? In At First Light, Stefanie Scott portrays Alex, a teenager who acquires supernatural abilities after encountering mysterious lights. When a shadowy government organization tries to track her down, she decides to run away with the help of her friend Sean (played by Théodore Pellerin). The film was mostly shot in and around Ottawa which doubled for a small California town; filming locations included Vanier and the North Gower Client Service Centre. At First Light premiered at the 2018 SXSW in the Narrative Spotlight program and can now be viewed on Crave.

If you noticed a common theme in these five movies, that’s because many of the feature films that shoot in Ottawa are in the horror or thriller genre, as we’ve written about before. Looking for something lighter in these uneasy times? Ottawa also makes a cameo in Philippe Falardeau’s My Internship in Canada (Guibord s’en va t-en guerre), available on Crave/Starz; the Canadian classic Bon Cop, Bad Cop (on Netflix); and Trailer Park Boys 3: Don’t Legalize It (also on Netflix).

TV SERIES

La vie compliquée de Léa Olivier

This French language television series, produced by Slalom in collaboration with Montréal’s Encore Télévision, is based on the popular young adult novels written by Catherine Girard-Audet. The first season encompasses the first two books which sees the titular character move from her small town of Ste. Marie to Montréal, leaving behind her boyfriend and her best friend. While some scenes were shot in Montréal, the majority of filming took place in Ottawa at a variety of locations, including a closed school, Petrie Island, Cumberland, and the Glebe. The first 12 episodes are now streaming on Club Illico (available in Québec and Ontario), and based on rave reviews, we’d say it’s only a matter of time before a second season is announced, especially considering Girard-Audet has written 12 novels.

The Best Laid Plans

Photo courtesy of Albert Camicioli

The Best Laid Plans is also based on a book, the award-winning novel of the same name written by Terry Fallis. The premise is simple enough: a political aide quits his job right before a federal election, but is roped into running one last hopeless campaign before he can leave. What can go wrong? As it turns out, a lot.

What separates this miniseries from most productions on this list, and in fact many other productions that have filmed here, is that it is actually set in Ottawa. The Rideau Canal is the Rideau Canal, the University of Ottawa is the University of Ottawa, and Parliament Hill is Parliament Hill. This show was granted rare permission to not only film on the Hill, but also inside Centre Block. Visit CBC Gem to watch all six episodes and see more of Ottawa on screen.

Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays and Michael: EveryDay

Photo courtesy of Albert Camicioli

Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays and its follow-up season Michael: Every Day were another CBC series set in Ottawa. Whereas The Best Laid Plans portrayed political intrigue, Michael delved into the neuroses of its main character, Michael, played by Matt Watts, who visits his therapist twice a week. The show was created by Watts and Bob Martin (who plays the therapist), with episodes directed by Don McKellar, Ottawa-born Alison Maclean, and Patricia Rozema.

The first season aired in 2011 to a small but loyal audience and was ultimately cancelled by the CBC, but renewed five years later for six episodes. Maybe we can expect a third season in 2021? You can watch Michael: Every Day on CBC Gem.

La malédiction de Jonathan Plourde

Are curses real? The characters in this French language miniseries start to think so when each woman Jonathan falls in love with dies under mysterious circumstances. The show, produced by Ottawa’s Slalom in partnership with Montréal’s Avenue Productions, was nominated for three Prix Gémeaux awards last year, including best dramatic series. The production was shot in Ottawa in 2018 at various locations, including Plaza Bridge (which opens the show), New Edinburgh, Lemieux Island, Lowertown, and Chinatown.

You can stream all six episodes on Crave. Want more? Join Marianne, one of the show’s characters, as she explores Ottawa’s haunted locations in the web series Ottawa after dark.

MathXplosion and ScienceXplosion

If you’re looking for entertaining and bite-sized videos to teach your little ones math, look no further – MathXplosion is here to help. ‘Mathemagician’ and host Eric Leclerc demonstrates easy-to-grasp math concepts with exciting experiments that kids can safely try at home. The series is guided by Ontario’s elementary mathematics curriculum aimed at children aged 6 to 8, although older kids and even adults might also find it informative. The show was created and produced by GAPC Entertainment and shot entirely in Centrepointe Theatre’s black-box studio.

All 50 episodes are under four minutes in length, and available in English on TVO Kids or in French on TFO. GAPC also created ScienceXplosion, based on MathXplosion’s model, to show kids how STEM concepts are all around us. You can find ScienceXplosion in French on TFO or in English on Idéllo.

BONUS: Zygote

Directed by Neill Blomkamp and starring Dakota Fanning and Jose Pablo Cantillo, Zygote is a sci-fi short film that was shot entirely at Ottawa’s Diefenbunker Museum. The film is set in the Arctic Circle where only two members of a 98-person mining crew survive and must face off against a terrifying creature. We’ll just leave it at that and those feeling brave enough can watch the short on YouTube.

 

So, you want to be a grip?

“What’s a grip?” If you’re not familiar with the film industry, or never searched the term after seeing it in end credits, that’s probably what you’re thinking. After all, grips represent one of the less glamourous departments found on a film set, working long, labourious hours and rarely receiving any accolades. It’s a high-pressure job that demands a 100% commitment, as Shawn Kazda explains.

Shawn is an Ottawa-based key grip with nearly 60 credits to his name on television series, made-for-TV movies, and feature films. After stumbling into this career path nearly a decade ago, Shawn is still working consistently in Ottawa and now finds himself as the local rep for IATSE Local 634.

First off, can you describe the role of a grip on set?
Grips are basically the backbone of a film set, and we work closely with many departments. On any given day a grip could be involved in everything from building lighting grids in a studio, to rigging cameras on vehicles, setting up track and working the Dolly, both softening and shaping light, and of course general support for all departments.

Did you always want to work in the film industry? How did you get started?
For me ending up in film was a complete fluke. I was visiting my girlfriend for lunch one day, who was working as a production coordinator at the time, and someone on that show was sick. They could not find anyone in the city who could work last minute, so after trying for a while, they finally settled on me. Since I wasn’t doing anything that day, I said “why not”!

That one day turned into a few more days on the next show, which then became a full run of show after that. Next thing I knew I was keying productions both here in Ottawa and other cities. Now I’m spearheading IATSE 634’s local union presence here in Ottawa as well. Funny how life work out sometimes.

Shawn with Locations Manager Nina Bains

What skills or training does a grip need to be successful?
Because the grip department deals with so many other departments, I would say first and foremost one must possess good people skills. Multi-tasking, problem-solving, and the ability to deal with stress would come in after that. If you played with Lego a lot as a kid, you’ll do just fine.

Being able to deal with pressure is also a big must, as time is money in film and you need to be able to solve problems quickly. There are times when a lot is going on all at once and staying focused on your task amidst the chaos can take some getting used to. A lot of what we do involves last minute changes when the cameras and the crew are waiting to shoot. At the end of day, personality is key in this industry as all the other skills can be taught on set as you work your way up the ladder. That being said, a basic understanding of how film sets work doesn’t hurt.

Is there anything you wish you knew before becoming a grip?
I think it’s important for people to know how much of yourself you have to dedicate to the industry if you want to make it anywhere. It doesn’t matter what role you play – actor, director, grip and so on. The long hours make it almost impossible to have much of a life outside of film, and there is a long line of people who would love to have your spot if you can’t hack it.

It’s a highly competitive field and those who only bring 85% will quickly be replaced by someone who gives 90%, and so on. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go over the years because they didn’t give their all. SO if you want to work in film and rise to the top, you better be prepared to be available 100% of the time and give 100% on set. The second you don’t, someone who will has your spot. Everything else in life comes second.

Shawn (far left) on the set of ‘A Christmas for the Books’ | Photo courtesy of Albert Camicioli

What has been your most challenging shoot to date?
The most challenging film to date was a recent film we shot here in Ottawa called On the Count of Three. We were shooting on film, which although sounds very romantic, also brings with it many challenges shooting digital eliminated. We rigged cameras to dirt bikes and had process trailers and helicopters, which all came with specific challenges. Long single take scenes where they would walk in from outside, through a lobby, into the elevator stopping on multiple floors. All the departments had to work together in perfect choreography or the shot didn’t work. All under the ever-present pressure of time. It took a few days to get the shot right.

The whole movie takes place over only one single day. Yet after the first week with no snow, it not only snowed but completely dumped on us. The script had to be re-written with snow partway through, other scenes had to be shot in a way you couldn’t see snow. Then on the last week of filming it rained, and when we went to film the final scene of the movie in a stone quarry, the snow had melted and we had to ship in trucks with snow. The only thing that was consistent was that it was cold.

On top of all this, we had stars such as Henry Winkler, Jerrod Carmichael and Tiffany Haddish on set which added to the pressure of being perfect. I never thought I’d say this, but after all the challenges of this movie, digital is beyond a doubt the way to go. Sorry film nerds!

What advice would you give to others who are considering a similar career in Ottawa?
Working in film is like no other job. It can be a lot of fun at times, but it can also be extremely challenging. There is a lot of pressure to be perfect, and you work long hours that can be different from day to day. Because of the crazy hours, we see each other more than we see people outside of film. Keep in mind through all this you’re also outside all times of the year, and all times of day/night.

So on top of enduring the physical challenges that come with long hours and high stress, you need to also be good with people, as being likable is just as important as skill set. Show up, do your work as best you can, and stay away from situations that cause drama. If you’re the type of person that can’t keep to yourself at work, you won’t last. Remember a lot of people want your job, you have to be the best, and all that means is doing what is required in your specific role, without getting in the way of others. If you can do that, you’ll make it to the top!

Location Spotlight: Manotick

While the town of Manotick may be over 150 years old, it seems only recently filmmakers have discovered its appeal. Historic buildings, a quaint main street, and luxurious homes offer productions many different looks while maintaining a small-town charm. Add in film-friendly businesses and sweeping river views, and you have everything you need to bring your project to life.

As with Ottawa itself, Manotick’s history begins with the building of the Rideau Canal. A small settlement formed in the area near the Long Island Locks in the 1830s, but the village wouldn’t see much in the way of development until 1860. That’s when Moss Ken Dickinson and his business partner Joseph Currier built the Long Island Flouring Mills, a grist and flourmill, with limestone from the Rideau River. A few year later, Dickinson constructed a beautiful Georgian-style home, the aptly named Dickinson House, which accommodated the general store, bank, post office, and telegraph office. Today, both Dickinson House and Watson’s Mill (formerly the Long Island Flouring Mills) welcome visitors who are eager to learn more about the history of Manotick.

Watson’s Mill and the serene Rideau River

The village would be further developed over the next 150 years, retaining its charm along the way and attracting residents seeking a quieter pace of life. Modest, historic buildings still grace the winding streets, as do modern, sprawling estates. Stroll down Manotick Main St. and you’ll be greeted by a mix of colourful shops, charming restaurants, and hip cafés, not to mention the friendly inhabitants who call Manotick home.

Manotick Main St.

At only 25 minutes from downtown Ottawa, Manotick offers the best of both worlds for productions – the ability to bring your Ottawa cast and crew without paying additional travel costs while enjoying the benefits of filming in an underused but film-friendly location. The Manotick BIA and the businesses it represents happily roll out the red carpet for visiting productions, as they did for Candy Cane Christmas, a Lifetime made-for-TV movie which shot in the area earlier this year.

But Candy Cane Christmas wasn’t the first film to shoot in Manotick and it certainly won’t be the last. Over the years, many productions have discovered this picturesque setting, including the feature film The Blackcoat’s Daughter (starring Kiernan Shipka and Emma Roberts), the Hallmark movie A Christmas for the Books, the Malayalam films Birds with Large Wings and Two Countries, and several made-for-TV movies.

“A lot of the people in Manotick are self-made, hard-working people who understand our goal to make art while creating job opportunities in the city. They’re often happy to help and be part of it all. And the BIA was amazing and so helpful. They even left all the Christmas decorations up for an extra two weeks for us which was a huge help to our art department and, of course, made for a beautiful movie!”  – Eric McAllister, Locations Manager on Candy Cane Christmas

On the set of ‘Candy Cane Christmas’ | Photo courtesy of Albert Camicioli

Whether you’re seeking a small-town look, historic buildings for a period show, or a unique café or shop you won’t find anywhere else, Manotick has it all. Ready to see more? Visit our Flickr page’s Small Town, Watson’s Mill or Rideau River albums, or contact us to learn why Manotick – and the greater Ottawa area – are the ideal backdrops for your next project.

Do you know a film-friendly location or neighbourhood that should be featured on our blog? Drop us a line to tell us all about it!

So, you want to be a Makeup Artist?

Ever wanted to know how your favourite actors always look so flawless on screen? Maybe it’s their genes and natural good looks, or maybe it’s the result of a makeup artist’s hard work and dedication. To learn more about this craft, we asked Ottawa-based makeup artist Anna Della Zazzera about her path to success, and what she learned along the way. Anna has applied her expertise in makeup artistry on everything from theatre and beauty campaigns to short films (like Neill Blomkamp’s Zygote), TV movies and feature films. Explore more of Anna’s work on her website and IMDB page.

Anna on the set of the Hallmark movie ‘Winter Castle’


First off, can you describe the role of a makeup artist on set?
A makeup artist is responsible for the design, preparation, and maintenance of the looks of the talent as it pertains to the face and exposed body, meaning anything that isn’t covered by wardrobe or hair on your head is the makeup artist’s responsibility.

Functionally, makeup is the application of beauty makeup, prosthetics, out of kit fx, fake blood, dirt, sweat, etc. It also includes the maintenance of these looks throughout the shooting schedule, matching the looks for continuity and removal at the end of the day. A makeup artist processes the talent, stands by with them on set, watches to ensure the makeup is maintained and touches up and makes changes as necessary.

If you’re working as a key then your responsibilities expand to include those of a department head which include communicating with production, the director, other department heads and cast, as well as managing a budget and hiring and overseeing a team.

Anna at D3 Studio in Los Angeles

Did you always want to be a makeup artist? How did you get started?
Makeup is my second career. I went to school for communication and journalism before working for the federal public service. I hated my job and I wanted a change. So, I literally made a list of all the jobs I ever thought were interesting and decided which ones could be feasibly obtained with the time and budget I had to dedicate to them.

Makeup was the winner. I had been living in British Columbia for nearly a decade and one of the top makeup schools in the country was four hours from me. Makeup combined my love for working with people and my desire to do something creative. I started at Blanche McDonald in Vancouver in 2014. I loved school but had a really difficult year personally, was going through a divorce, and upon graduating I moved back home to Ottawa leaving behind all the networking and job prospects I had built in Vancouver.

So, without knowing what opportunities Ottawa offered a freelance makeup artist I just threw myself into building a career. My first job was with Cirque du Soleil. It was a three week internship that turned into an additional job contract and a phenomenal work experience. Then I got my first film job. After it ended I was offered another film job (thanks John Petti) and another, and another. Fast forward to now and I just started my sixth year freelancing full-time. I work for CBC and Global News on an ongoing basis. I became a union member last fall.

What special skills or training does a makeup artist need to be successful?
A makeup artist needs training in applying makeup for HD. That includes product knowledge, skin knowledge and lighting knowledge. They also need knowledge of period looks, out of kit fx, sanitation standards and set etiquette. Beyond these hard skills, a makeup artist requires a set of soft skills which are absolutely imperative. These include communication, professionalism, candour, confidentiality, tact, getting along with people, being respectful, being able to follow instructions, enthusiasm and even temper.

Hard skills can be taught, in a class, in a book or by a mentor but soft skills are harder to teach. Attitude is so important in this job and will factor in greatly to how successful you are.

Anna’s work on ‘Zygote’ actor Jose Pablo Cantillo

Is there anything you wish you knew before pursuing this line of work?
I wish I knew I wanted to work in film before I went to makeup school. I was convinced I wanted to work in fashion or in theatre and I just fortunately fell into film. In retrospect, I love film way more than I love makeup and I’d likely never pursue any type of makeup career outside of film and television.

But there’s always more to know and more to learn in this job. It’s one of the things I love most about this career. I love the continuous learning and opportunities for professional development. It guarantees a lifetime of learning and creative challenges.

What has been your most rewarding experience as a makeup artist for film and television?
Honestly, the fact that I have the opportunity to live off my art is the most rewarding experience. I have a job I love and I never thought I’d know what that feels like.

Beyond that, I’m really grateful for the people I’ve met. A workplace is made up by the people in it and film is no different. There’s a reason they call it a film family.

What advice would you give aspiring film makeup artists in Ottawa and across Canada?

 Three pieces of advice:

  1. No education is better than bad or mediocre education. Do not spend thousands of dollars for a piece of paper and six weeks of education from someone who isn’t an expert in their field. If you want to go to school, do your research. Make sure you’re learning from someone who has done the job you aspire to do one day. Or as an alternative, spend your money on your makeup kit and learn as an assistant on the job.
  2. Be prepared for the lifestyle. Film isn’t glamourous, and I cannot stress this enough. It is hard work. It is challenging in a way that is almost impossible to describe to someone who has never done it before. Try it before you commit completely. If it’s not for you, there are so many other opportunities for makeup artists that you can explore.
  3. It’s not about you. Check your ego at the door. This isn’t a job to show how talented you are, feel like a celebrity or hang out with actors. Always be mindful of your position and your boundaries and don’t forget that you are doing a job as part of a team just like every other member of the crew.

Top 5 Places in Ottawa to Film a Christmas Movie

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – one filled with snowy streetscapes, peppermint-flavoured drinks, Christmas music, and non-stop holiday programming. Airing as early as October and running to the new year, holiday TV movies have become a tradition for millions of viewers worldwide, beloved by so many for their predictable, feel-good endings. And in trying times, isn’t that what we all want, an escape from reality and the promise of a Happily Ever After?

Here in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario, holiday TV movies are big business. Be it Hallmark, Lifetime, UPtv or Freeform, broadcasters and production companies have taken notice of our region, spending almost $8.5 million on their holiday fare this year alone in the Ottawa region. While often ridiculed, like in this SNL sketch which even mentions Ottawa (fact check: Christmas movies shoot here throughout the year, not just over one month), these types of films provide consistent work for our local crew, actors, and companies. Christmas TV movies also help to promote our beautiful region to international audiences by featuring our unique and stunning locations, like the five listed below. Click here for a map of all locations in the city of Ottawa that were used for 2018-2019 holiday films.

ByWard Market
As we’ve mentioned before, the ByWard Market is one of Ottawa’s most requested filming locations, and when it comes to holiday movies, the market has it all: romantic courtyards, upscale restaurants, unique shops, and trendy offices. For Lifetime’s Mistletoe & Menorahs (a.k.a. A Merry Holiday), which shot this past April, the crew even built a Christmas market in Jeanne d’Arc Court, glimpses of which can be seen in the film’s trailer. Jeanne d’Arc Court isn’t the only courtyard to be featured in a holiday film; Tin House Court was used in 2018’s A Christmas for the Books, a Hallmark film which also shot at the ByWard Market’s Librairie du soleil. In addition to the oh-so-charming courtyards, films like Hallmark’s A Storybook Christmas (a.k.a The Plan for Christmas) and BYUtv’s Christmas Jars have shot at restaurants and offices in the ByWard Market.

Jeanne d’Arc Court/Screenshot from ‘Mistletoe & Menorahs’ trailer/MarVista Entertainment

Cumberland Heritage Village Museum
Boasting an early 20th century church, a picturesque gazebo, and a rural square, the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum perfectly fills in for a New England small town, or whichever small town the lead character is invariably from/must go to. In Christmas Around the Corner, directed by adored Canadian actress Megan Follows, Ottawa and Almonte double for a small town in Vermont. The production shot at the museum, using the interior and exterior of the church to film a town gathering scene. Winter Castle, although not technically a holiday movie, also filmed at the museum; however, most of the film was shot at an ice hotel near Quebec City. Check out our Flickr page for more photos of this hidden gem.

Cumberland Heritage Village Museum/’Christmas Around the Corner’/Photo courtesy of Albert Camicioli

Rideau Canal Skateway
As the world’s largest skating rink and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal Skateway is a popular tourist attraction, but did you know it also attracts film and television productions? Christmas Jars, based on the best-selling novel of the same name, shot some scenes on the Skateway, as seen in the film’s trailer.

The Skateway measures 7.8 kilometers and features backdrops that range from historic and urban to rural and serene, with the added ability of doubling for many American and European towns, real and fictional. This unique site is managed by the National Capital Commission (NCC) which reviews requests on a case-by-case basis based on ice and weather conditions. Visit our Flickr page for more photos of the Rideau Canal or contact the NCC for further information.

Rideau Canal Skateway/’Christmas Jars’/BYUtv

Almonte
Nestled within the scenic community of Mississippi Mills, Almonte is a quintessential small town that has appeared in countless holiday films, including this year’s Christmas Scavenger Hunt (which also shot in nearby Carleton Place and Pakenham). Almonte has served as the backdrop for such films as Christmas Around the Corner, The Rooftop Christmas Tree, and Christmas Festival of Ice, as well as several other TV movies and feature films. A picture-perfect main street is lined with film-friendly businesses, from cozy cafes to quaint bookstores, not to mention the historic Old Town Hall which overlooks the majestic Mississippi River.

For more on the allure of Almonte as a filming location, listen to this CBC All in a Day interview with local production coordinator/manager Ainslie S. Wiggs.

Almonte/’Christmas Around the Corner’/Photo courtesy of Albert Camicioli

Stonefields Estate
To our knowledge, no one has shot at Stonefields Estate…yet, but we have a feeling that will soon change. Located just outside Ottawa in Carleton Place, Stonefields Estate is primarily a wedding venue which boasts a stone farmhouse, a main event building, and log barns, and if you’ve seen the photos on our Flickr page, you’ll agree this site is right out of a Hallmark film. Moreover, the venue has expressed interest in hosting film and television productions, so get in touch with us if you think this 120-acre heritage farm is the right fit for an upcoming project.

For a similar rustic chic venue a bit closer to home, Strathmere also offers Hallmark vibes with its 150-year-old restored barn, garden house, and farmhouse. The TV movie Love at Look Lodge recently shot at Strathmere where it took advantage of the beautiful fall foliage. You can check out a short behind-the-scenes video posted by local director Maxwell McGuire on his Instagram feed.

Stonefields Estate

Broadcast dates for 2019 holiday films that were shot in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario

  • Christmas Scavenger Hunt (Hallmark) Premiered Nov. 3, re-airs Dec. 3
  • Rock N’Roll Christmas (UPtv) Premiered Nov. 10, re-airs Dec. 1, 7 and 9
  • Christmas Jars (BYUtv) TV premiere on Dec. 1, airs Dec. 2 on Citytv (Canada)
  • A Storybook Christmas a.k.a The Plan for Christmas (Lifetime) Premieres Dec. 6
  • Mistletoe and Menorahs a.k.a A Merry Holiday a.k.a Merry Hanukkah (Lifetime) Premieres Dec. 7
  • A Cheerful Christmas a.k.a. Christmas Coach (Hallmark) Premieres Dec. 15
  • Double Holiday (Hallmark) Premieres Dec. 21
  • Christmas Crush (ION TV) Premieres Dec. 22