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OSOYOOS WELCOMES HOLLYWOOD AS THE BIG YEAR FILMS IN TOWN
OSOYOOS TIMES-June 16, 2010
By Paul Everest – Osoyoos Times
Osoyoos has long shared many traits with Southwestern America: the climate, the architecture, the landscape.
Last week, that connection went even further when the town stood in for parts of New Mexico and Arizona while the 20th Century Fox movie The Big Year filmed here.
Starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Anjelica Huston, the film shot several scenes around town and employed roughly 50 Osoyoos residents as extras and 25 local people as crew.
While filming took place on June 8 at Spotted Lake and on Hazel Pendergraft’s property at the base of Anarchist Mountain, the biggest buzz in town came with an evening shoot at the Husky service station on Hwy. 97.
The service centre’s restaurant, known as the Husky House, was transformed into Phoebe’s Restaurant for a scene with Owen Wilson, best known for his roles in Night at the Museum, Marley and Me and Wedding Crashers.
Lisa Wentzell, an employee with the Town of Osoyoos, was cast as an extra for a scene with Wilson at the restaurant and played a waitress who serves the star coffee.
“I was a little nervous,” she said. “You don’t get a lot of direction and you hope to do well.”
Wentzell said Wilson asked her a few questions during the shoot, including if she worked there and if she was from Osoyoos.
Harry Toor, who owns the Husky station, said scouts with the production company making the film came into the station during the first week of May and asked about the potential to film there.
Toor and Husky’s district manager, Don Delay, gave the production company the OK to shoot.
To alter the restaurant for the film, advertisements for Husky on the station’s walls were covered up with generic gas station signs and placemats were changed inside.
The Husky logos on the restaurant and service station were changed to read “Phoebe’s.”
The restaurant was closed for most of the day while crew members prepared for filming and the gas station was closed for two hours while cameras rolled.
“They cooperated very well and they didn’t make any mess,” Toor said, adding he was compensated for two hours of lost sales at the pumps.
Earlier in the day, scenes with Steve Martin were reportedly filmed at Spotted Lake before the production moved to Hazel Pendergraft’s property off Hwy. 3 at the base of Anarchist Mountain.
She said Martin, Black and Wilson were present for the scenes shot on her land and filming was done around a body of water on her property known as Boot Lake.
The scenes that were filmed were around some rocks near the lake, Pendergraft said, adding her property was meant to stand in for New Mexico.
She also said scouts came to view her property months ago and it was confirmed in May that her land would be a location for the movie.
Pendergraft added that she also received some compensation for the use of her property.
While shooting in Osoyoos and Vaseux Lake, the cast and crew stayed at the Watermark Beach Resort on Main Street.
Hotel manager Paul Scanlon said the production took up 100 rooms in the resort for four nights beginning June 5.
Martin and Wilson stayed in townhouses at the resort, he added.
When the cast and crew had a day off on June 6, many took the chance to do some wine touring, boating or parasailing.
The Big Year is a comedy based on the 2004 book, The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession, written by Mark Obmascik.
According to its profile on the Internet Movie Database, the film is about “three avid bird watchers (competing) to spot the rarest birds in North America at a prestigious annual event.”
In the world of bird watching, a “big year” is an informal competition amongst bird enthusiasts to see or hear the most species of birds within a specific area during one year.
The film, which is scheduled to be released next year, is directed by David Frankel, who also directed The Devil Wears Prada and Marley and Me.
Jon Summerland, commissioner for the Okanagan Film Commission, said the budget for the film is roughly $85 million.
Provincial tax incentives were part of the reason the production team behind the film decided to shoot in the South Okanagan, he said, and it’s 18 per cent cheaper to shoot a movie outside the Lower Mainland.
But the ability to easily drive between locations was also a big draw for the area, Summerland added.
Another reason the producers chose Osoyoos was because the town’s resorts were offering great rates for accommodations for the cast and crew.
Summerland said the production team was working on a “tough” three-month timeline for filming and the three principal actors were only together for three weeks.
After leaving Osoyoos, the production moved on to Vancouver and will eventually end up in New York City and Arizona.