The Hallmark Channel series Chesapeake Shores has officially returned to Parksville Qualicum Beach to film its fifth season.
As with previous years, the series will hire as many Vancouver Island workers as possible; this year’s season having close to 65 per cent of ‘Islanders’ on board.
With filming locations popping up throughout the region, residents can expect to see cast and crew in the area until the end of July.
Executive producer Matt Drake said many filming locations will be ‘classic spots’ such as the Leigh House, the town square in Qualicum Beach and Parksville Community Park. The Qualicum Beach Community Hall is also a new location to look out for in the coming weeks.
This year Drake said they are also on the hunt for a nearby forested area, and hinted at the possibility of Errington or south Parksville locations.
“Every season we’re always trying to try to branch out and really showcase the region as best we can,” he said.
Parksville’s picturesque beaches and Qualicum’s “quaint town feel” is what initially brought the production team to the Island when the series began in 2016. Both attributes were key in providing a backdrop similar to the Eastern Shore of Maryland where the series takes place.
“As soon as we landed we just thought this is perfect. Qualicum has that beautiful feel we wanted - that kind of quieter, peaceful, serene beach town feel,” said Drake. “And Parksville has that beautiful expansive beach that just goes on for miles. And it just all fit together. I think it really stands to show that the backdrop is a character unto itself.”
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the past year has been a tough one for production and crew. As with many other industries, film staff have had to learn and adjust to new health and safety protocols.
Since the series was renewed for its fifth season last year, Drake said a lot of time was spent waiting.
In March 2020, when provincial and national restrictions were first being established, the season was in its early stages of pre-production.
“At the beginning we thought that it might disappear in a month or so - that it was something we could roll our way through. And then it became quite clear in the following weeks that it was getting worse and worse.”
In collaboration with Hallmark, the production company then decided to play it safe and postpone filming for a year, with plans to return when they could and do the show justice.
However 2021 presented new challenges to overcome. Drake said it helped that production had a year to brace and prepare for them.
According to Drake, crews and teams have ‘pods’ that they can interact and move around within, which allows them to compartmentalize certain positions on production. For many members of the crew, this season’s filming is likely their second or third production they’ve worked with already.
“I’m very thankful that we have an experienced crew that’s also very familiar now with working under these conditions… The system is working. It’s tried and true, and we feel very confident with it.”
All members use personal protective equipment such as masks, face shields and gloves when necessary, and that multiple COVID-19 tests are done weekly.
“Physical distancing plays a huge part in that, as well. Just because we’re testing doesn’t mean we can rely entirely on that.”
The self-isolation period did present cast and crew with the unique opportunity for further script contemplation and virtual table reads. Something, Drake said, they’ve never had as much time to do before.
Chesapeake Shores season five will consist of 10 episodes, as it has with previous seasons, with the first episode planned to premiere in August 2021.
Following Jesse Metcalfe’s (Trace Riley) departure from the series, which was announced at the end of March, Drake confirmed the storyline with follow a natural progression to the character’s absence.
Although, as a new addition to the cast, Robert Buckley, of One Tree Hill, will be joining the team this season.
Phoef Sutton has also been signed on as showrunner for the series. Sutton was previously a writer and executive producer for the ’80s sitcom Cheers.
“We’re really happy with the way it’s going, and I know Hallmark is too. We’re really excited for the fans to experience the fifth season this year,” said Drake.