They answered the call.
More than 200 people are estimated to have signed up as extras for A Cowboy Christmas, the movie featuring Maple Creek and Historic Reesor Ranch.
It was what mayor Michelle McKenzie had wished: a huge volunteer turn-out to show the best of Maple Creek.
It was also what producer Shayne Putzlocher had wanted for a movie that will be seen around most of the world.
“The best times, the best experience,” he said at the end of the night’s shooting on Sunday.
Jeremy Drummond, the director, was equally enthusiastic in his praise.
“Mayor Michelle and the entire committee here, and everyone at the Daily Grind, have made Maple Creek the best place to film,” he said. “It has been amazing, 100 per cent.
“We don’t usually get this kind of treatment; everybody has been so friendly and has helped us out.
“We were fighting to get some snow, and so some snow was brought in. They also blocked off Main Street, which is awesome. We are very excited, and so far over 120 people have signed up.”
Drummond was speaking on Saturday afternoon. That number would soon swell.
The movie, expected to be released in time for Christmas 2023, is being produced by Trilight Entertainment, a media production company with offices in Calgary and Toronto.
Heather Wright’s script tells the tale of a New York marketing executive who goes to the Reesor Ranch to snare a new client.
What she finds instead is a new way of life – and a man who captures her heart. She decides to put romance, horses and Western living above the artifice and superficial glitter of the Big Apple.
The high-flying executive, Ella Wade, is played by Teagan Vincze, easily identifiable by her striking red hair. The cowboy who lassoes her emotionally is ranch owner Cole Reesor, played by Brennan Martin.
Two days of filming took place over the weekend.
One of the challenges was to recreate the Christmas spirit in late March, with snow thin on the ground in many parts.
On Saturday morning, motorists and pedestrians would have seen a bobcat hauling enough snow to make white banks along the sidewalks at the upper end of Jasper Street. Inside the machine was Dylan Christiansen.
He must have done a fine job, for film-makers were in the street later that day, along with the lead actors and a smattering of extras.
The movie production nerve centre appeared to be The Daily Grind, where background crew members, like make-up artists, were based.
The News-Times watched as a scene outside The Daily Grind was filmed late on Saturday afternoon, stretching into the evening.
There were numerous takes of Ella leaving the coffee shop, holding a tray of coffee; she walks towards Cole, who is standing next to his truck, and hands him the tray with the words: “A token of my appreciation.”
“Action”, “Cut”, “Action”, “Cut” became repeated instructions in the search for the right take.
At one stage, somebody called out to Cole: “Smile a little more.”
Absolute silence was a must as actors went through their lines.
The click of a reporter’s camera was met with a friendly finger to the lips from a crew member.
After the day’s shooting was wrapped up, Drummond, who lived in the Fort Walsh area 20 years ago, outlined what had taken place.
According to the script, Ella had come from New York to Maple Creek in a bid to “catch” a new client staying at Historic Reesor Ranch, he said.
“She is not dressed properly, so she comes into Hill Country Clothing (#126 Jasper Street) to get her Western wear so she can ride a horse. She has never ridden a horse before, although the actress playing her has ridden horses.”
Drummond said Cole had given Ella a lift into town and the coffee was her way of saying thank you.
“So, she goes into The Daily Grind to get a coffee for Cole, and they know him so well there, they know he takes one cream, one sugar and oatmeal cookies. He is quite the gentleman.
“Through the movie she falls in love with Cole Reesor and realizes she doesn’t enjoy the New York life and being sent out to work over Christmas. Between Cole, the ranch and the horses she decides to stay, and at the end they kiss by the mistletoe.”
Drummond said the coffee scene takes place about a third of a way into the movie.
“The movie is a 90-minute feature, and Maple Creek will feature for 5 to 10 minutes. The Reesor Ranch will be in the rest of it, along with the surrounding area, all the beautiful countryside and the Cypress Hills.”
Saturday saw a lot of preparations for the movie’s holiday festival in Jasper Street. A giant tree was put up, and a “Cowtown Christmas” banner strung across the street, prompting some observers to say they wished these would become regular features of a genuine Maple Creek Christmas.
Would-be extras were asked to assemble at 6pm by The Glascock Building, where they were required to sign a release form. Hot dogs, hot chocolate and coffee were available during the wait for instructions.
One of the busiest volunteers was Carmen Drapeau, who has been coordinating community efforts, ensuring that messages from Trilight Entertainment went out to the public.
Asked how many people had signed up, she estimated the figure must exceed 200.
During the wait, a horse-and-carriage operated by Gordy Hawrylak appeared, adding to the festive atmosphere. His wife, Ellaine, a former Town Councillor, got on board, clad in a Santa outfit.
The horses attracted plenty of interest, particularly from children.
At last, instructions came. Extras were to file up the street towards the main shopping centre.
Two fire pits were set up at the Jasper tavern intersection, allowing people to keep warm as they awaited further directions while film crew members raced about, in constant radio contact with each other.
Extras were split up and asked to walk up and down Jasper Street, one group on one side, a second on the other.
Lt. Brent Wareham, from Maple Creek Salvation Army, was already in position, pretending to play his guitar as part of the “Christmas kettle drive”. Meanwhile, Gordy Hawrylak’s horse-and-carriage ferried extras to and fro.
In one scene, Cole and Ella approach a building with a “For Lease” sign on it.
Later, Putzlocher explained to the News-Times how the scene fitted into the movie.
“The couple come to town and this is where they see the stores. In the story, she (Ella) sees that there is a ‘For Lease’ building and small towns these days sometimes have some of those. It foreshadows … I don’t want to give the movie away … it becomes her building. So, I just gave the movie away.”
As the scene unfolded, extras walked along the middle of the street, looking at the Christmas tree.
After the final take, the focus switched to the Farmers Market off Pacific Avenue. A smaller number of extras was drafted in as shooting continued way past midnight.
Putzlocher said “A Cowboy Christmas” would probably be released before Christmas 2023.
“It will be out this year. I’m sure, no matter what, people will be able to buy VOD (Video on Demand), anywhere you can rent movies, like Apple or anything like that.”
Will it be available on DVDs, perhaps available at The Daily Grind?
“We don’t do DVDs any more, but maybe we will talk to Tina about that.”
Putzlocher believes Maple Creek will benefit from exposure in the movie.
“I hope it’s good for the town and community. This movie will be seen all over the world.”
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