St. Marys Journal Argus
Preparations began on Friday, Oct. 24 for this week’s filming in St. Marys of scenes from two upcoming episodes of the CBC Television series Murdoch Mysteries. And just a few days later, it was difficult to find a trace of a full day's worth of traffic disruptions that had the town's citizens abuzz.
Filming was scheduled to take place for a single day: Tuesday, Oct. 28. But on Friday, the packing paper that had been blocking an interior view of the historic Andrews Building jewellery storefront on Queen Street was removed. Crew from the show had tidied the long-shuttered retail location — which retains, in keeping with a unique Town of St. Marys heritage designation, its ornate turn-of-the-century display cases, a stately "Grandfather's clock," and other interior features — and placed period-appropriate items on its shelves and counters.
On Monday afternoon, a carpentry crew rolled into the alley behind Little Red’s Pub and Eatery, where they created pieces of an urban set for the show and carried them up the alley onto Church Street. This included painted wooden signs for a "Hotel" — which was fastened to an air-conditioning unit sticking out the side of the present TD Canada Trust building — and a sign for a business called "Patry's" books on a Church Street storefront that, in recent years, has gone from being home to a Pentecostal church congregation to a short-lived performing arts space.
Inside what was, most recently, the Mercury Theatre, the Murdoch Mysteries crew created the look and feel of an early 20th century bookstore.
Meanwhile, some keen eyes noticed the following advertisement on the online classified website, Kijiji, posted by Toronto-based company Dupere Casting. “I am looking for extras to work on a television series on Tuesday, Oct. 28 in the town of St. Mary’s Ontario. You will be paid.” A number of residents had responded to the ad, so watch for them when the two episodes — entitled “Toronto’s Girl Trouble” and “Crabtreemania” — air sometime early in 2015.
Among the respondents were a number of performers from the St. Marys Community Players' fall production of Kaufman and Hart's "You Can't Take it With You." One of them, Don Van Galen, told the Journal Argus he quickly fired off an email requesting his consideration as an extra, and heard back almost immediately. He was asked to send a photo, as well as measurements for the fitting of his costume. And he was asked to be on location before 7 a.m. Tuesday, to be provided directions for the day.
And Tuesday, of course, was when things got really interesting. As planned, filming began "at first light" on Church Street, with the lovingly-preserved, Andrew Carnegie-funded, 1905 Public Library — located directly across the street from the aforementioned, fictional Patry's Books — was given a prominent role.
Later in the morning, the action shifted to the Andrews Building and the rest of the Queen Street block on which it fronts. While set-up and rehearsals were underway, the public was given free roam to walk through the area, although most people stood behind the wooden barriers — dozens of them holding cameras and camera-phones aloft — meant mainly to keep the street free of vehicles. An Amish resident of nearby Zorra Township reported striking a deal with the show to provide one of his horses as an "extra."
And when the for-real takes were being filmed, the request was put out by Murdoch Mysteries Executive Producer Peter Mitchell — who also happens to be directing the two episodes for which scenes were being filmed in St. Marys — to keep clear of the area, and keep noise to a minimum.
Rain disrupted filming for a short while around noon. But it didn't last long, and by nightfall the work was complete. "And that's a wrap," Van Galen posted later in the evening on his Facebook page — after earlier posting a photo of cast and crew inside the Andrews Building, preparing for an interior scene.
By Wednesday morning, all traces of the filming — including the Patry's Books and "Hotel" signs, were gone.