[EN PHOTOS] Ottawa, the new setting for American Christmas pictures

The snow has disappeared from the streets of Ottawa, but there are no mistletoe or fir trees: in the spring, shooting takes place in the Canadian capital, where a third of the Christmas films released each year in North America are made.

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Tax breaks, settings reminiscent of small American towns or big cities: Ottawa attracts a dozen productions every year.

According to Sandrine Pechels de Saint Sardos, commissioner of the Ottawa Film Office, in a world marked by pandemic and conflict, the success of these Christmas films has exploded in recent years.




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“People wanted things that made them feel good. And there are Christmas movies. It’s escapism, comforting content,” believes the expert, adding that they “allow families to come together in tender, non-violent moments.”

On a sunny spring day in the large Ottawa suburb of Almonde, snow falls like Santas outside cafes on Main Street. “Hagus Pocus Christmas” is filmed there.



[EN PHOTOS]    Ottawa, the new setting for American Christmas films

AFP

Cotton snow

“It looks like a small American town here, like where I grew up in Pennsylvania,” says American director Marita Grabiak.



[EN PHOTOS]    Ottawa, the new setting for American Christmas films

AFP

“The main story is always a man and a woman falling in love or becoming best friends,” says the expert, who has been shooting in the region for six years. The plot takes place in small towns for the values ​​they embody: simplicity, hard work and mutual aid.



[EN PHOTOS]    Ottawa, the new setting for American Christmas pictures

AFP

Shooting in the winter during a blizzard can make for “absolutely beautiful scenes,” he enthuses behind his sunglasses. But extreme cold can damage cinema equipment, so you have to adapt.

Special effects supervisor Mathieu Bissonnette-Pigros, responsible for creating the illusion, has the task of “tricking the eye” of the viewer.



[EN PHOTOS]    Ottawa, the new setting for American Christmas pictures

AFP

“It’s often the smaller spaces that make the effect more realistic,” she believes, using foam, paper and cotton to create snow on a storefront.

On set, nothing is easy. “If it’s too hot, the foam will melt … if it’s too windy, everything will blow away,” explains producer Josie Fitzgerald.



[EN PHOTOS]    Ottawa, the new setting for American Christmas pictures

AFP

Scenes are reworked in post-production.

Park at 30 degrees

“It’s fun and cold! The people in the movie have this fake snow and lots of Christmas decorations,” explains Hannah, 9, who is walking with her mother.

Kim Nixon, who has been installed at Almonte since 2016, estimates she has seen “between 15 and 20” Christmas movie shoots and American actor Justin Hartley (“This Is Us”).



[EN PHOTOS]    Ottawa, the new setting for American Christmas pictures

AFP

For one of them, last July, “thanks to the decorations, we would have thought we were in the middle of January,” he says. “It’s really something to see,” he insists.

But “I felt sorry for the actors wearing parkas in the 30-degree sun,” smiles Mr. Nixon.



[EN PHOTOS]    Ottawa, the new setting for American Christmas pictures

AFP

In recent years, Hallmark, Lifetime, the Oprah Winfrey Network, etc. have spent over 50 million Canadian dollars a year filming in Ottawa.

Broadcasters are attracted by the generous tax credit, which covers 45% of labor costs, or 10% more than major film production centers in Toronto and Vancouver.



[EN PHOTOS]    Ottawa, the new setting for American Christmas pictures

AFP

And then here, “There’s a ‘wow’ effect here,” says Sandrin Becheles of Saint Sartos, referring to the architecture of the Chateau Laurier, Rideau Canal, walking trails, nature parks and picturesque villages that transform Little America. cities.

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