American Beauty. Pleasantville. The Stepford Wives. The Virgin Suicides. What these films have in common, besides being subjectively great films, is the way they use their suburban settings to help tell a story and convey emotions; one might even say that the location – suburbia – is a major character in each film. Even if a film or television series doesn’t emphasize its surroundings as much as the aforementioned productions do, many still film in suburbia for that perfect house, park, school or street. Luckily for Ottawa, we have several suburbs to satisfy most productions’ needs. With an increase in filming in the suburb of Orléans, we thought it was time to further explore this east-end community.
Orléans is located between the picturesque Ottawa River and the National Capital Greenbelt, only 16 km from downtown Ottawa. Named St. Joseph d’Orléans until 1974, the region was amalgamated with the rest of Ottawa in 2001. The once rural village has seen significant economic growth and development in the past four decades as residential communities and businesses were steadily built. With a surge in housing, businesses and services, Orléans has also seen a massive increase in population – from 6,000 in 1971 to 120,000 today, a third of which is Francophone making it the largest Francophone community in Ottawa.
Although many may not consider Orléans a cultural hub, it has hosted countless concerts, plays, comedy shows, dance shows and other performances. The Shenkman Arts Centre, for example, presents shows in both English and French (through MIFO) and showcases visual art by local artists; its Harold Shenkman Hall and Richcaft Theatre have even been used as studios for television series. The east-end art centre is also home to Artpreneur, a one-day conference which brings together artists and business leaders. Professional artists and artists-at-heart can further hone their crafts through workshops with the Shenkman Art Centre’s Resident Arts Partners, like the Ottawa School of Art or the Ottawa School of Theatre. You can also find in Orléans Sing House Studios, the Academy of Dance Arts, The Cumbrae School of Dancing, two movie theatres (CineStarz and Landmark Cinemas) as well as numerous film-friendly locations.
Did you know that in the winter of 2012, Michael Keaton was in Ottawa filming the thriller “Penthouse North”? Mr. Keaton and his co-star, Michelle Monaghan, filmed at different locations in Ottawa including an empty warehouse in Orléans off Highway 174. Thanks to a green screen and some talented local construction coordinators, carpenters and set dressers, the interior of the warehouse was transformed to create Monaghan’s character’s New York penthouse. According to Michael Baker from Bunk 11 Pictures, one of the film’s local producers, shooting in the film-friendly community of Orléans was great for the production due to its proximity to downtown, ample parking, and great access to stores and restaurants which helped support production. “I loved filming in Orléans,” added Robert Menzies from ZED.film, another local producer who worked on the film, “and not just because I live in the east-end suburb! We needed a large warehouse type space with high ceilings and we found the perfect location close to all the required resources needed for filming. It’s a great location for filming and I’d love to see more happen here!”
Other productions have made use of Orléans’ more natural settings, like when Slalom Productions filmed scenes for the period docudrama series Le Rêve de Champlain at Petrie Island and in the surrounding wooded area. Check out this behind-the-scenes clip to see what it’s like to shoot night scenes at Petrie Island.
In addition to Petrie Island and the connecting nature trails, Orléans boasts several idyllic parks, forests and landscapes steeped in nature. The NCC’s Mer Bleue Bog, a conservation area in the National Capital Greenbelt, offers filmmakers a chance to film boardwalks, wetlands, trails and forests (as Mer Bleue is a conservation area, please note that filming may be restricted to certain areas or times of year – contact the NCC for further details.) You can even find waterfalls in Orléans! The Princess Louise Falls are a hidden gem off St. Joseph Boulevard that connects to a creek and trails. Parks and playgrounds, schools, restaurants and other businesses provide many other looks and locations for a wide variety of productions, from TV movies and series to feature films, commercials and more.
“Our community is lucky to have a combination of different settings including the picturesque Petrie Island, a wide variety of green spaces including several nature trails in the heart of our community, local shops and businesses as well as many parks throughout our neighbourhoods.” – Councillor Bob Monette
If any of the locations we mentioned peaked your interest, or you’d like to learn more about filming in Ottawa, contact us to discuss your needs! Our office can help you obtain all the necessary permissions to film on City of Ottawa property and can provide you with the proper contacts for other public locations.