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It’s Christmas in June for Ottawa filmmakers

It’s Christmas in June for Ottawa filmmakers

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It's Christmas in June for Ottawa filmmakers

It’s Christmas in Ottawa, with filmmakers this spring and summer capturing couples smooching under mistletoe, reindeer running amok and Santa Claus leaving presents under evergreens lavishly decorated with lights and ornaments.

The Canadian capital has become a hub for holiday films, with more than a dozen each year, or one-third of all Christmas-themed movies screened annually in the month of December in North America, shot here.

But while snow is temporary, hefty tax credits last year round – leading to creative workarounds to create icicle-laden shots amid 90-degree Fahrenheit (32 C) weather.

Amid a boom in demand for Christmas movies, it’s all worth it for the quaint, seemingly made-for-the-screen scenery that dots the region, industry professionals tell AFP.

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“There is a wow factor here,” said Sandrine Pechels de Saint Sardos, film commissioner at the Ottawa Film Office – pointing to the fairy-tale architecture of the Chateau Laurier, the Rideau Canal, old courtyards and cobblestone walkways, waterfalls and parks, and Canadian villages that stand in for American small towns.

“There are so many spots in Ottawa and the surrounding area that look like where most of these Christmas stories take place,” said producer Josie Fitzgerald, shooting her fourth and fifth Christmas films this year.

On the set of “Hocus Pocus Christmas,” in Almonte, on the outskirts of Ottawa, director Marita Grabiak says it feels “very much like the small town that I grew up in, in Pennsylvania.”

Christmas movies are so often set in small towns, she explains, because of the values they represent: simplicity, hard work and residents’ commitment to each other.

“The main storyline is always about him and her falling in love, or becoming great friends,” she says. “It’s an assembly line product, but I try to bring truth and relatability to it.”

Locals Sarah Affleck and her daughter Hannah stopped by the set, hoping to catch a glimpse of a famous actor.

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“It’s funny and cool also to see snow and Christmas decorations at this time of year,” says Hannah.

Passer-by Kim Nixon recalls another film shot here last July: “The way they had the street decked out, you would swear it was the middle of January. It was really something to see.”

“You kinda felt sorry though for the actors dressed in parkas in 30 degrees Celsius,” he says.

The snow is obviously fake, he adds, “but when you watch the movie it looks real.”

Special effects supervisor Mathieu Bissonnette-Bigras uses foam, paper and cotton batting to create the appearance of real snow. “We just roll it out as needed for scenes.”

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It can be touched up in post-production with computer-generated imagery, he says.

But on set it’s a challenge. “If it’s too warm, the foam melts… If it’s too windy, all of it blows away. Also the foam will settle on peoples’ hair and eyelashes and will become very quickly and obviously soap bubbles,” adds Fitzgerald, the producer.

Paper snow, meanwhile, requires “a heck of a clean-up.”

This year, she says, “because of the incredible uptick in movies requiring snow, our biggest challenge is getting our hands on snow-making supplies.”

Holiday film production and viewership exploded in recent years amid the stresses of the 2020 pandemic, economic woes and conflicts around the world, according to Pechels de Saint Sardos.

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“People wanted something to make them feel good. And Christmas movies were there to deliver. It’s escapism. It’s comfort content. It’s feel-good stories,” she told AFP.

“Christmas movies also bring together families to watch sweet moments, and there’s no violence,” she added.

Hallmark, Lifetime, the Oprah Winfrey Network and other TV networks picked up on the trend, spending collectively more than Can$50 million (US$36 million) annually to shoot films in Ottawa, alongside the occasional theatrical release such as Fatman (2020) starring Mel Gibson.

A generous tax credit covers 45 percent of labor costs – 10 per cent higher than in major film production centres Toronto and Vancouver.

For those trying to film the real thing, Canada’s wintertime blizzards can produce “absolutely beautiful scenes,” says Grabiak.

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But extreme cold also wreaks havoc on equipment – meaning sweating through a parka in the middle of the summer is often worth it. 

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Noor Xarmina crowned Miss Universe Pakistan 2024

Noor Xarmina crowned Miss Universe Pakistan 2024

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Noor Xarmina crowned Miss Universe Pakistan 2024

Noor Xarmina from Islamabad has been crowned Miss Universe Pakistan 2024 and will represent Pakistan at the 73rd Miss Universe competition in Mexico this November.

Noor’s diverse upbringing across nine different countries shaped her global perspective.

She studied biology and business and worked as a venture capital investor in London before pursuing a career in acting and modeling.

In her free time, she enjoys running for mental clarity. Noor aims to increase Pakistani representation in the international entertainment industry. The first runner-up is Nimra Jacob.

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Shaheera Jalil joins star cast of Selahaddin Eyyubi Season 2

Shaheera Jalil joins star cast of Selahaddin Eyyubi Season 2

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Shaheera Jalil joins star cast of Selahaddin Eyyubi Season 2

The makers have reportedly “confirmed” that Shaheera Jalil Albasit, who is known for her role in drama series Razia, has now joined the star cast in Season 2 of the mega project Selahaddin Eyyubi.

Earlier in November last year, Shaheera appeared on Amna Isani’s Haute Talk, where she shared some inside information about the auditions for the Selahaddin Eyyubi series.

Shaheera explained, “In 2021, I auditioned for the Pakistan-Turkey joint venture Selahaddin Eyyubi. It was a formal process; I applied, received a call, and traveled to Karachi. I was thrilled and surprised to see amazing actors like Ushna Shah and Ayesha Omar there.

The auditions were conducted by the Turkish team. I was selected out of 60 people, which was a significant achievement. Standing next to actors like Humayun Saeed felt like a milestone. After being selected, I thought I was set with a role in a Turkish drama.

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The drama has since been completed, but none of us are in it. They selected

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Khalilur Rehman released after abduction, police register case

Khalilur Rehman released after abduction, police register case

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Khalilur Rehman released after abduction, police register case

The Lahore police on Sunday registered a case on the complaint of eminent writer Khalilur Rehman Qamar that he was kidnapped and tortured.

Qamar is a famous writer and has given the industry some major hits. He is also known to have some controversial views on a variety of subjects.

According to the details, a woman named Amina had called Qamar to her house saying she wanted to make a drama and when he reached the woman’s house, the armed men kidnapped him.

The Payare Afzal writer had to give a huge sum of money to the kidnappers for his release.

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Later the Sundar police registered a case of the incident based on his statement.

In the FIR, it is mentioned that the accused kept on torturing Qamar and kept moving him to different places, the accused threatened to kill him and asked him to request for more money from his relatives.

It was further stated in the FIR that the accused had transferred Rs250, 000 from Qamar’s mobile phone and also took his watch, cash and ATM card.
 

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