Hollywood North takes a turn west, to West Nipissing

With no snow on the ground, the film crew works to transform Downtown Sturgeon Falls into Woodbury, Colorado, the setting for ‘The Winter Palace.’

Fake snow has been flying, cameras have been rolling, and local businesses have been temporarily transformed as the Great American Company (GAC) has been using West Nipissing as the backdrop for the film The Winter Palace. Locations from Monetville to Sturgeon Falls; Saenchiur flechey Resort, Chez Nous Cafeteria, Nipissing Food & Bins, Century 21, the Tribune, and the streets of downtown Sturgeon Falls have become a fictional location in Colorado.

The Winter Palace is a romance in the Hallmark tradition – “A woman takes a job as the caretaker of a Colorado chalet owned by a “wealthy family” in Europe. And since the family rarely visits, it’s the perfect place to enjoy solitude and work on her book. That is, until a member of the family that owns the place shows up unexpectedly—a handsome prince along with his entourage.” The movie is expected to air around January 22, 2022. But this isn’t the end of things. Shawn Julian, locations manager, says that West Nipissing is likely to see more movie action in the not-too-distant future. There will be plenty more opportunities.

Danica McKellar and co-star Trevor Donovan on the King Street set for the filming for The Winter Palace.

Julian has a local connection. He was born in River Valley, lived the first part of his life in Desaulniers, and while he was scouting locations in West Nipissing he was repeatedly stopped by locals telling him he looks like one of his uncles. “When I took Amy Krell (the producer) to the chip stands, she saw the old Michaud Levesque building. I went there since I was a kid… One guy stops us, speaking in French, and says I look familiar. I said yeah, my family is from out here. He says ‘You look like a guy from here, Luc Dubé’. That’s actually my uncle, passed away years ago. We’re shooting the breeze, another guy stops me, that I look familiar – like Roger Dubé – another uncle. People are just stopping me… This is why I want to be here – you don’t encounter such a genuine friendliness. The kindness that is in Sturgeon compared to a lot of places… Amy is from California. When she comes out here, she says ‘I want to just hug everybody, they are so nice’. …Sturgeon is very inviting.”

As the locations manager for this production, Julian brings a history of experience from Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Mississauga, Pembroke, Almont, London, and lately he’s been doing a lot in the north, particularly in North Bay. Since COVID, there is less traveling, with some communities becoming a bit nervous. “Last year as COVID was going on, we did two weeks in North Bay and a week in Bracebridge. The Bracebridge folks were very nervous. We were the trial COVID production, the first one granted permission to start filming again because everyone was shut down.”

With the safety precautions taken by the production company, Hideaway Productions, the company achieved a perfect score on safety. “We went above and beyond all the measures needed; our safety protocols were ironclad …80% of crew are tested twice a week every week, Mondays and Fridays, and certain crew in contact with cast; camera department, director, producer, hair and makeup, wardrobe, etc., are tested 3 times a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday.”  

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