Soldier extra on set waiting for a scene call on army camp film set at field on Mission road in Vernon. Photo credit: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Vernon a movie substitute for Italy

WW II morality tale Peace currenty filming in Okanagan

An Enderby connection to the Hollywood movie industry continues to generate economic benefits for the Okanagan Valley.

Producer Rick Dugdale has returned home to the Okanagan to film another movie, this time a Second World War morality tale, Peace.

Based on the best selling novel by Richard Bausch, Academy Award winning director Robert Port is both the screenwriter and director of this action thriller, a meditation on human nature and war and the experience of combat.

Dugdale previously produced the film Blackway, starring Anthony Hopkins and Ray Liotta, shot in the North Okanagan, and says he is constantly fielding calls in Hollywood about what the Okanagan has to offer for movie location potential.

Related: Movie-making keeps Dugdale hopping

Peace is the story of four American soldiers set on the grueling ascent of an Italian mountainside in the closing days of WW II in 1944, haunted by their evil sergeant’s cold-blooded murder of a young woman and relying on an old Italian man of uncertain loyalties as their guide.

The cast includes Alexander Ludwig (Vikings Swerve, Hunger Games, Blackway), Sam Keeley (The Cured, In The Heart Of The Sea) and long-time Italian actor Franco Nero.

“It’s a pretty difficult shoot in that the film takes place in winter, so you are shooting outside in the cold and there is a lot of night filming as well,” he said. “From a weather perspective, the cast and crew are living the story and that brings something else to the production as well.”

Filming took place in Vernon this week over three days on Mission Road near the Allan Brooks Nature Centre, where a vacant field was turned into an army camp, authentic to the last detail circa 1944.

Filming will continue at locations in Coldstream, Kelowna and Predator Ridge over the next month.

Rodney Goodchild, a Vernon resident for the past 11 years, worked as a soldier extra for the army camp scenes.

“I heard about the call for movie extras in the Vernon Morning Star about a month ago, applied and they gave me a call and said are you free on these days,” Goodchild said.

“I am one of about 20 extras working on these scenes. I have been in the trenches, carrying guns walking through camp, got to drive a jeep, carried empty boxes that we are supposed to show are real heavy, which is harder (to portray) than it looks.”

Goodchild described his first experience on a movie set as like being in a circus.

“Some people are really busy and others appear to be doing nothing, then those people become busy and the others are not. It’s a constant flurry of activity.”

Goodchild, who is currently unemployed, joked about this as his potential start to an acting career.

“It’s my first movie but you never know, it could be the start of something huge. But it’s been a fun thing to do.”

Port, who won his Oscar in 2003 for directing Twin Towers in the best documentary-short subject category, said he first heard about Bausch’s book in an article about its pending release in the New York Times.

“Without having read the book, just reading that article about it was enough for me to want to get the movie rights option on it,” Port recalled in a break between scene set-ups on Wednesday.

“It took about two to three months to get the deal finalized but the story just resonated with me at the time.”

He collaborated for advice on the screenplay with Bausch, who was expected to visit the set during the shooting.

“It’s a morality story that I think is still relevant to soldiers today,” he said.

Dugdale was in the midst of producing an ambitious new trilogy Intrigo starring Ben Kingsley for 20th Century Fox when he and Port were discussing locations to shoot Peace.

Dugdale and Port both came here last year to scout potential filming sites.

“I haven’t been home much the last two years, with filming Intrigo in Europe from April to September in multiple countries across Europe with a three-week break in June, then coming here to start on Peace.”

Related: Enderby excited about movie production

And while home for Dugdale is in Los Angeles, his house is in an evacuation alert area near one of the multiple California wildfires currently burning out of control.

While he is happy to be working near his hometown of Enderby, where his mom Louise still works at the municipal hall, and be able to spend Christmas with her, Dugdale says the Okanagan’s geography remains a draw for filmmakers, coupled with B.C.’s tax credit incentives and the strength of the U.S. dollar against our Loonie.

While the Okanagan won’t ever rival the draw of Vancouver because of the filmmaking need often for a large metropolitan centre, he says the Hollywood connection to the Okanagan still has potential to grow bigger.

“As an industry, we have a 11 multiplier effect, so for every dollar we spend, it creates $11 of economic benefits,” said Dugdale, citing an example of trickle-down economics.

“And we are a green industry. We come to a location, film and we leave everything behind just as we found it.”

Dugdale said post-production on Peace will be done in Sweden with the film expected to make its debut at film festivals starting in late 2018 or 2019.

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