“Fatman,” a recently released action-comedy featuring Mel Gibson as Santa Claus, is in the rural backwoods of Alaska. “Christmas Setup” (Lifetime on December 12) again focuses on a same-sex romance between high school friends in Milwaukee. “Christmas Unlocked” (December 13 on Hallmark) features the story of a mysterious key set somewhere in the United States.
But all three films were shot inside Ottawa Almonte, Ontario – A picturesque former mill town of approximately 6,000 residents located along the Mississippi River (Canadian version) and known as the birthplace of James Naismith, the inventor of the game of basketball.
“This is the quintessential American small town,” explained Ansley S. Wiggs, the Ottawa location manager, who was instrumental in putting Almonte on Hollywood’s radar by helping bring the shoot for the 2007 Lifetime film.The house sitter, “Starring Tori Spelling in the City.
“It’s the main street, the beautiful stone buildings and the shops, the water – all the elements one imagines when they think of that hot and fuzzy little town that someone left to go to the big city and comes back And reconnects with his roots, “he said.” If Norman Rockwell were to build a small town for a film, he would do what he would attract. “
It is a fitting backdrop for the romantic and passionate story lines of the Hallmark and Lifetime Holiday films, and Almonte has appeared in this genre since the 2016 TV film.The Rooftop Christmas Tree. “
Since then, Almonte has shot seven more yuletide films that “can play in any small city in any US state,” Caitlin Delaney, who has produced producer or production manager in several films, including “The Christmas Setup” Worked as “, Said,” It is very beautiful, yet very beautiful. “
He said, “Every time we take a new director and director of photography for Almonte and they walk down Main Street, they are blown away. It is a realization of how the house should feel. “
Pat Mills, Ottawa-born director “Christmas setup,“Has long been aware of the city’s visual appeal.
“I remember I was going to Almonte as a child. It would be a place to go on Sundays – just a cute little town, ”he said. The architecture is amazing; It is very cinematic. “
For “The Christmas Setup”, Mills found a century-old, gingerbread-style limestone house in front of a church parked across the street. “You can’t really meet in a big city – this quaint, classy, Christoma classic neighborhood,” he said.
The sculptor Stephen Brathwaite, Who lives in the Almonte area, helped the city produce more cameras while leading a major restoration of heritage buildings along Mill Street in its main retail commercial district.
However, he explained, Almonte’s rich and varied architecture was already a cinematographer’s dream. Shops and houses located in historic buildings, built by the owners of 19th-century woolen textile mills (including a house converted into a museum), are regularly used as backgrounds or for interior shoots. So is 1950s-style city food.
Almonet brand only “Mini Hollywood North” And financially benefits when film crews turn to merchants to film locations or goods and services, but can limit the number of shootings in the city.
Tiffany McLaren, community economic and cultural coordinator for the municipality of Mississippi Mills, which includes Almonte, helps presentations with logistics and said increased shootings, bringing trucks and other equipment with them create headaches for local businesses they were finished.
“We have to understand that people live and work here,” said McLaren, whose 17-year-old son, Cameron, makes an appearance at a recent Holiday film shooting in the city. “Unlocking christmas. “
“It’s a real city, it’s not just a set.”
47-year-old Almontones Christy Latham and her 14-year-old daughter, Kali, acted as background artists “fat man.“He was recruited by Letham after posting a sign on a snow-covered front lawn that read,” Hey, Mel! You can be my fatman (Santa) … and we can be your extras. “
“I’m a huge Mel Gibson fan,” said Latham, who runs a door-to-door hairstyling salon. “I never got a chance to meet them, though.”
Another local businessman, Inga Jutila, is still on camera. But the eclectic home and garden shop she manages on Mill Street, LG LE & SONS, Is featured in three films, including “Unlocking Christmas” with various signs on the door.
“I know what I say when I say yes.” “You’d be surprised at what it’s like to film just one small scene – the number of people, the equipment, the recourse. They over take, but they’re great, and to make sure all your needs were met Is – and to go above and beyond – with Kovid, he dusted off the entire store before arriving and exiting. “
Almonte’s experience has influenced some of the stars of the films.
Tony- and Emmy-winning actress Jane Alexander spent several weeks living in an artist-owned waterfront condo on Mill Street while she was filming.Christmas around the corner“A 2018 Lifetime film in which Almonte was used as a stand-in for the city of Vermont.
Although she had never heard of Almonte before the shoot, Alexander said she “loves the layout of the city” and follows a routine that led her to the butcher, the baker, an antique shop and other boutiques stopped.
Of all the North American film locations he has held for more than the last 50 years, Almonte “ranks high on the list,” said Alexander, who is also a Canadian resident living in rural Nova Scotia.
For Frances Drecher, Almonte, a star of “The Christmas Setup”, evoked a sense of “an era of small community” when artificial snow and Christmas lights and decorations were added to the scene when she landed there. Did shoot
“It looks like something out of Currier and Ives that adds a kind of melancholy that reminds us of our childhood – whether we lived that life or not,” said Drescher, one in Malibu, California The beach is home.
Still, Mills, the “Christmas setup” director, worried that the city might soon be “over-photographed, where many Hallmarks and Lifetime films have used the main square.”
Then, given that Almonet is a stand-in for Milwaukee in his film, he is “pretty sure you’re not watching these films for geographical accuracy,” he said. “You look for them to feel a nice warm blanket over you.”
Tanya Lopez, Executive Vice President of Films, Original Series Acquisitions on Limited Series and Lifetime, more or less confirmed Mills’ perspectives. She said her network’s focus is on “telling stories that are inclusive and different, rather than having seen that bakery or sidewalk in Almonte.”
As a light snow, one Christmas fell badly on the town square for the final shoot of “Unlocking Christmas” earlier this month, LG Lee & Sons’ Jutila was there, across the street in her shop, “it “Come together” and then watch it go away. “