POWASSAN – Powassan residents and visitors have always known the beauty of the area they’ve come to know and love.
And know the world will too, though they may have to watch the credits role before they know exactly where the postcard backdrops really come from.
The Powassan area for the next few weeks is a movie set for the Hallmark production Christmas with Tucker, a heartwarming holiday story about a boy and his dog in small town Kansas starring screen legend James Brolin whose career has been going strong for more than 50 years.
“It’s about a boy and his dog at Christmas time and Powassan and North Bay were the perfect place to shoot this,” said executive producer David Anselmo. “Powassan’s countryside is just breathtaking and with the farmland looks just like southwestern U.S. It is set in Kansas and the scenery and barns of Powassan will just blow people away.”
On Monday the film made a big splash in the town of Powassan when the block across Main Street from Oshell’s Valu-Mart served as the backdrop for some scenes in the television movie production expected to air next November.
The store fronts of the former hardware store, Hyatt Eric Real Estate, ** Hairstyling and Brushey’s outdoors store being transformed, American flags and all, into small town U.S. at Christmas.
Lamp posts were redecorated with the elves and banners normally put up for the holidays by the municipality, Christmas trees piled onto the sidewalks along with wreaths and strings of lights to complete the affect.
Going even further, snow was trucked in from North Bay’s Jack Garland Airport to dump on top of what Mother Nature had already dropped.
“There was lots of snow but it was a bit dirty so we brought in three truck loads of fresh stuff,” said Anselmo..
The Monday shoot did disrupt the normal flow of traffic on Main Street, but the shopkeepers and residents didn’t seem to mind.
“It was a great day for the town,” said Peter Brushey. “How often do we have a movie set on the Main Street of town bringing our little piece of the world to the rest of it?”
Brushey’s served as not only a backdrop but a warming area with actors and crew mingling in the shop between takes.
Hanging out with Brolin caught Brushey by surprise, who thought at the start of the day he would be fortunate to meet him, let alone spend a good portion of the day with him.
Describing Brolin as a big man standing about 6-foot, five, Brushey saud, “He’s a very kind gentle man… It was a real thrill to me to have him in my store.”
Brolin is expected to be in the area for the next two weeks until shooting wraps up on March 22 and speculation in the area wonders if the star power could get turned up even higher.
Brolin is married two-time Academy Award winner, nine-time Grammy winner Barbara Streisand and some are wondering if she will make the trip north to visit.
“I’m sure she’d love to visit but I’m also certain she is quite busy enough where she is,” said Anselmo, just a week after Streisand appeared on the Academy Awards gala.
Not that she might be opposed. Anselmo says Brolin has talked with him about coming to the region before and enjoying spending time in Muskoka.
“James is a phenomenal actor and person and I know he’s really enjoying himself up here,” said Anselmo.
Anselmo himself has a busy enough schedule these days with another shoot happening in Sudbury for a Sony Pictures movie, The Frozen starring Adam Beach and Michael Ironside in an action thriller involving a plane crash with Russian spies and a mystery virus.
“It’s a very different kind of movie,” said Anselmo.
He credits the flurry of activity to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund incentives that began a few years ago and began drawing productions north of Toronto. Anselmo’s company Hideaway Pictures has been involved with six projects since July with more in the works, including another Hallmark production.
“The Northern Ontario film industry is really evolving these days and there are more opportunities than ever. We’re happy to say a lot of people (in the production crews) are from Northern Ontario. The team we’ve been able to assemble from Northern Ontario talent is amazing,” said Anselmo.
At the same time, he says the production of Christmas with Tucker and others shot in the region are benefiting from one of its greatest natural resources – the people.
“The one thing, and I’m from Northern Ontario, I know is the hospitality and the way people in Northern Ontario are willing to help out and support you,” said Anselmo.
Brushey agrees, and takes credit for adding a final detail to the Main Street setting.
Saying he never thought he’d have a lone American flag on his store, Brushey said, “I reminded them that they needed that. ‘You better get those flags up there. This is America now.’ ”
Residents able to track down Christmas with Tucker when it airs will recognize many familiar faces filling in the background of the town scene to go with the streetscape, though most of the store names will have changed, with new signage erected for the shoot.
But not Brushey’s.
“They said they loved it and wanted to keep it,” said Brushey. “It will be Brushey’s store that will be shown forever. I hope they show the movie every Christmas.”