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South Shore becomes 'stand-in' for Maine town

by Vernon Oickle


Writer Shawn Piller chats with cast member Lucas Bryan outside the Chester Yacht Club where several indoor sets have been constructed. Chris Reardon photo
 Located somewhere in the state of Maine is the small town of Haven.

 It is a refuge where people with supernatural abilities have migrated for generations because it mutes their powers, allowing them to lead normal lives. At least, until recently.

 When hotshot FBI agent Audrey Parker is called to Haven to solve a murder, she catches the killer but, in the process of that investigation, uncovers a much deeper mystery about the town itself.

 As agent Parker digs deeper into the mysteries that manifest below the surface of this picturesque coastal town, she uncovers more than she bargained for as the residents' dormant powers begin to express themselves.

 As the truths reveal themselves, Parker will try to keep these supernatural forces at bay while unravelling Haven's many secrets - including one surrounding her own surprising past in this extraordinary place.

 "Haven" is a new, one-hour original television drama currently being filmed along the South Shore as places like Lunenburg, Chester, Hubbards and Northwest stand in for the fictional town.

 It is precisely this region's close visual resemblance to Maine that ultimately attracted producers to these shores, but the decision to film here was made for many other reasons according to one of the driving forces behind the 13-episode series.

 Shawn Piller is a Los Angeles-based writer on the series based on the Stephen King novel, "The Colorado Kid." During a recent interview on a Northwest set, he found it hard to contain his enthusiasm for this part of the country.

 "It's gorgeous here," he said as cameras rolled on a scene set on a local wharf that will be seen in episode five. "It looks just like Maine and that makes the show look authentic. That's very important to the producers."

 He admitted that before deciding on Nova Scotia, the producers scouted many places across the country for the project but ultimately they went with this location for three specific reasons.

 "Visually, it's stunning and it's what the producers wanted. They literally went coast to coast and also looked at Toronto and Montreal, but when they came to Nova Scotia they said this was perfect," Mr. Piller explained adding that beyond the visuals, "Nova Scotia has a great crew and it has a fantastic tax credit. All of that together made this a very attractive location for the producers."

 And for Nova Scotia, the $23-million project means good news.

 "This is the first high budget, dramatic television series that has been pre-sold to the U.S. to be filmed in Nova Scotia," said Ann MacKenzie, president and CEO of Film Nova Scotia. "The 'Haven' team chose the province because they saw we had the complete package, including a strong film tax credit incentive. We hope their decision to film here will open the door for future television series aired in the U.S."

 The tax credit is one of the highest in the country and offers a strong incentive to film in rural Nova Scotia. Production companies can receive a credit of up to 65 per cent on labour or 35 per cent of total production costs.

 E1 Entertainment, which is producing the series, determined that Nova Scotia provided the best overall production value, Ms MacKenzie said.

 "Attracting these kinds of investments to the province, especially to rural areas, creates good jobs and grows the economy. This helps to strengthen our communities and makes life better for families in every region."

 "Haven" is produced by E1 Entertainment from Toronto in association with Piller/Segan/Shephard and the local producer is David MacLeod of Chester-based Big Motion Pictures.

 E1 Entertainment (AIM: ETO) is a leading independent entertainment content owner that acquires film, television and music rights and exploits these rights in all media in more than 190 countries. The company currently operates in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Holland and Belgium through its four primary businesses units - E1 Television, E1 Films, E1 Music and E1 Distribution.

 These businesses collectively represent E1's extensive expertise in film distribution, television and music production and distribution, kids' content, licencing and distribution. E1 Entertainment is the largest distributor of entertainment content on the Canadian market.

 Laszlo Barna, president of E1 Television, said they picked Nova Scotia as the location because it's a good fit.

 "The story is actually set in Maine, so Nova Scotia was the perfect stand-in," he explained. "That said, the area we are shooting in is some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It looks great on TV."

 This is not their first experience working in Nova Scotia, however.

 "Our projects have ranged from 'Call me Fitz' and a series we produced for the CBC about the FLQ crisis; and now, like them, production has gone extraordinarily smoothly," Mr. Barna explained. "The crews are fantastic and everyone in the community is enthusiastic about our presence. What else can you ask for?"

 He credited their "extraordinary partnership with David Macleod (Big Motion Pictures) and Ginny Jones Duzak, the Nova Scotia line producer" for their success.

 When asked why this project was so appealing for him, Mr. Baran said, "because I am a big Stephen King fan."

 Mr. Piller, producer, writer and director, and principal partner of Piller/Segan/Shepherd had high praise for the Canadian producers.

 "They're great to work for," he said, admitting that they have high hopes for "Haven" beyond the initial 13 episodes.

 "We'd like to see it continue for 10 seasons," he said.

 In describing the series, Mr. Pillar said he sees "Haven" as a kind of microcosm of the entire world. "But we get to focus on this wonderful small town. The thing that always attracts me to Stephen King stories is the intersection of humour and heart and that's exactly what you'll discover in Haven."

 He should know a thing or two about bringing Stephen King to television screens. Mr. Piller has also served as executive producer and directed several episodes of "The Dead Zone" based on another King novel which he also co-created. That series ran for six seasons on the USA Network.

 "The cool thing about a Stephen King story is that it allows us to focus on characters," Mr. Pillar said, stressing that "Haven" ultimately represents a collection of unique personalities. "Stephen King is a great writer who really knows how to explore people. That makes for a great character-driven show."

 At its core, Mr. Pillar said "Haven" is all about the people who inhabit this mysterious small town and, while there are secrets to be told, he said he also believes these characters have stories that people can relate to.

 "It's a mystery," he explained, "but it's also a story about why mysteries are important to people and how mysteries play in our lives. I think it will have great appeal."

 In looking at Nova Scotia to tell these stories, Mr. Pillar said the place is exactly what the producers needed.

 "The location is perfect," he said. "Nova Scotia is basically a backlot for Stephen King and I'm loving it here. They couldn't have picked a better place and if the series is picked up for another season, I'd be very excited to come here next summer."

 Production began in April and will continue into August. Mr. Pillar said the people of Nova Scotia have been perfect hosts and thinks they will be very happy with what they see on film.

 "Haven" features actors Emily Rose (Jericho Brothers and Sisters, ER), Lucas Bryant (Queer as Folk, M.V.P.), Eric Balfour (24, Six Feet Under) and local actors John Dunsworth (Trailer Park Boys) and Richard Donat (Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion).

 The series debuts in Canada on July 12 at 11 p.m. on Showcase and in the U.S. on July 9 on the Syfy channel.



posted on 06/22/10
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