The Town of Crossfield has partnered with Sony Pictures and Netflix Productions to provide set locations for the filming of a new Netflix series based on the book My Life with the Walter Boys, written by contemporary young adult author Ali Novak
The story centres on Jackie Howard (played by Nikki Rodriguez), a prim and proper perfectionist whose life is turned upside down by tragedy and who must learn to let her hair down to adapt to her new surroundings.
According to Sue Keenan, chief administrative officer for the Town of Crossfield, filming is well underway, with two of five film blocks already completed.
She said the film cast and crew will continue working throughout the summer months. So far, production has been running smoothly with no major hiccups to account for.
“It has been really well organized and implemented,” she said. “There have been minimal impacts on the community in terms of road closures and the community has really embraced My Life with the Walter Boys' production, cast, and crew here big time.”
Keenan said Crossfield's newly approved filming policy – designed to establish guidelines for the creative industry to ensure Town property and the rights, safety, and privacy of its citizens are protected – has really helped keep operations running like clockwork.
The CAO added she hopes the success of it will draw further interest to Crossfield as a popular television and film production location. The town has already provided the backdrops for recent productions including Ghostbusters: Afterlife and the Hulu series Under the Banner of Heaven.
“[The policy] definitely streamlines the process and production,” she said. “Folks are always happy to know what the expectations are, and everything is very fluid, clearly articulated in that policy.”
She added Crossfield’s recent popularity with production studios stems from the municipality’s availability as a “one-stop shop," offering a little bit of everything with a small-town feel.
“When they come into town, they deal with me initially and I make sure that everything from the Town’s perspective is coordinated the way they need it,” she said. “So, it’s pretty flawless actually, and it works very, very well.”
She said from the Town’s perspective, the marketing and promotion of Crossfield through global exposure in productions such as Ghostbusters: Afterlife and My Life with the Walter Boys is invaluable to the community.
“There’s no price tag you can put on it – having our town featured in a movie or TV series is incredibly beneficial for the economic impact of not only our town, but the region,” she said, adding the Town gets funding from the production studios to cover costs associated with filming.
Keenan said so far, the feedback from the community has been positive regarding the upcoming production, noting a single complaint that came through was dealt with swiftly.
“It’s been very well received by not only the business community but our residents as well,” she said. “[Filming is] a bit inconvenient at times with the amount of vehicles and things, but people adapt to it, and they know it’s short-term, so it’s definitely been very, very good.
“We’ve been very fortunate over the years in terms of the people we’re dealing with, they know their stuff and we work very well together, and they love Crossfield.”
Filming locations in the town include W.G. Murdoch School, the Pete Knight Memorial Arena parking lot, and two separate locations on Railway Street.
According to the principal of W.G. Murdoch School, Derek Keenan, there is a real excitement on campus about the production happening at the school.
“This is a place that the students are familiar with, and they see on a day-to-day basis, and to see it represented in another format is kind of cool,” he said. “They’re eager to see their community school on screen and how it shows up in the production.”
He said the students excitedly await the production arriving on Netflix so they can look for their classroom, hallways, and favourite stomping grounds on screen.
Additionally, several students have also expressed interest in starring as extras in the production.
“I’m not sure how many of them have gone through with that, but we’ve definitely had some inquiries, which is a unique experience, being able to act in the school and be on that small screen as part of that production,” he said.
The principal said during the filming of Ghostbusters: Afterlife at the school, some students participated as extras in the film, and he added it created a common history in the community, with stories shared about the experience.
“There’s lots of conversations about who saw Paul Rudd as one of the stars,” he said. “And some of the production members have become quite known around the community, particularly the one who does the site production.
“Overall, it’s pretty affirming to the community when it’s chosen to be part of these productions because the productions are seeing value in the town and the community. And they want to capture that on film, so it’s kind of special that way.”