Jonny Harris on stage during a live show pre-COVID. (Photo by Chris Armstrong)

Jonny Harris on stage during a live show pre-COVID. (Photo by Chris Armstrong)

Still Standing filming in Island community July 11-15

Crew from the popular CBC-TV program coming to Chemainus film an episode

Chemainus is Still Standing and will be the subject of host comedian/actor Jonny Harris’ affections when he is joined in town July 11-15 by a crew from the hit CBC-TV series to film an episode of the popular show.

Canada is obviously a vast country and the show’s executive producer Anne Francis, who’s based in Toronto, explained two communities are paired together during the same trip by the show’s personnel. Filming will take place for a segment on Hope first from July 5-9 before heading to Chemainus.

This is another major coup for Chemainus following the filming of part of the Hallmark movie The Baker’s Son here earlier in the year.

Related story: Parallels between Chemainus and fictional town evident in Hallmark movie

The content for the Chemainus Still Standing episode isn’t being revealed just yet.

Suffice it to say the storyline will revolve around Chemainus’ transition from a mill town to a tourist destination after the previous sawmill closed in 1983. The mural project under the direction of Karl Schutz that started in 1982 really swung into high gear to fill the industrial void and boost the town’s economy.

“That’s where we’re going to start,” Francis confirmed, “and we’ll tell the continuing story.”

There will be other segments with people from around town connected to its history and the incorporation of different unique businesses from the arrival of new residents to keep it vibrant.

In short, it will be the evolution of the Little Town That Did, said Francis. “Where do we go from here or where are we going from here?”

Certain criteria must be met for inclusion on the show and Chemainus has been on the radar for quite some time.

“Population-wise it fit our criteria and also we do like to go places where industry shifted,” said Francis. “These are the kinds of stories we go for.”

To paraphrase Harris’ lingo, it features “towns that are against the ropes, but hanging in there.”

The entire entertainment business has been severely restricted during COVID. “We’ve been grounded since last October,” pointed out Francis.

Crews were only able to shoot two episodes of Still Standing last season.

“I think Chemainus actually came to us last season, but we weren’t going to be coming out to Vancouver Island,” said Francis. “We knew that. We all got locked down and it was a bit of a waiting game.”

There’s a big team behind the scenes that puts each show together in consultation with Harris.

Francis has worked on numerous shows over the years. She came on during Season 4 and Still Standing is now into Season 7.

“I love the show,” she enthused. “All of the crew work on different series but there’s no other show like this one! We love it, it feels good, it’s a ‘good heart’ show for us.”

The process of putting the Chemainus story together began with researcher Mya Bilbao and then involves Francis, series producer Alex Lazarowich and story producer Shayla Howell to map it out.

“She spoke to dozens of people,” said Howell of Bilbao. “I pick that up, reach out to all those folks and fine-tune it a little bit.”

“Shayla writes a 30-page package, meeting with Jonny to pitch him,” Francis added. “He goes away and sketches preliminary ideas.”

“It’s been such a pleasure to work on this episode preparing,” said Howell. We started working on this in November. All of our plans got shut down because of COVID. I’ve been talking to your community for a long time.”

Lots of Zoom meetings have been conducted this year in lieu of some personal contact and it all eventually comes together in the tightly-knit package of video clips and segments from the live show you see on the final product.

The only drawback for Francis and the crew are the current limitations that COVID requires. The live show to conclude four days of filming is normally held at a local gym or hall and packed by members of the featured community, but that’s not possible right now and the finale to the Chemainus visit July 15 will be a ‘closed set’ with a restriction on numbers based on provincial guidelines.

It’s not ideal and in keeping with the show’s persona, but better than the alternative which would be not filming at all.

“We want to shoot and this is what we have to do to shoot,” Francis said. “It’s for the greater good: a) to get everybody back to work; and b) get the show back on the air.”

Chemainus will still notice some activity pertaining to the show going on, even if it won’t be possibly as interactive as usual.

“You’ll see people around town trying to capture what defines Chemainus,” noted Francis. “That is the plan.”

So stay tuned Chemainus as the town will once again be at the forefront of a major program. The episode is expected to be broadcast sometime in January of 2022.

Watch for Harris’ clever wrap-up at the end that has become a standard of the broadcasts.

Lake Cowichan has previously been featured on the program, with Greg Adams’ development of the Laketown Ranch central to the show.

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