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Shooting concludes for Sunshine Coast TV murder series

Over the past five months, 'Murder in a Small Town' has been a part of local life as the L.R. Wright adaptation filmed all around the southern Coast.
Rossif Sutherland and Kristin Kreuk star in Murder in a Small Town, set in a gloomy location faintly reminiscent of the Sunshine Coast.

Only three days after shooting wrapped on the television drama Murder in a Small Town, the Fox entertainment network released its first trailer for the eight-episode series. 

“It will be in Fox’s fall schedule,” said producer Nick Orchard. The show is set to air in the U.S. on Tuesday evenings at 9 p.m., although an official date has not yet been announced for its pilot broadcast, and the time may differ on Fox’s Canadian affiliates. 

The five-month TV shoot concluded with a wrap party at The Bay restaurant in Gibsons on May 10. At its busiest, the production involved over 120 cast and crew members working at locations on the southern Sunshine Coast. 

The mystery novels by L.R. Wright on which the series is based are set in Sechelt, but the TV series chose Gibsons as the titular small town. Scriptwriters elected to use the real names of locales: the slow-burn intrigue between Karl Alberg (played by Rossif Sutherland) and his love interest, librarian Cassandra Mitchell (Vancouver-born actress Kristin Kreuk) plays out in a fictional version of Gibsons.  

Even Molly’s Reach — a mainstay location for the series’ diner scenes — retains its iconic facade, but the characters refer to “Molly’s” for short. 

Cassandra’s library scenes were filmed in the stacks of the Gibsons Public Library. Library director Heather Evans-Cullen rented the facility with the stipulation that library staff receive the opportunity to appear as onscreen extras.  

“The first time they were there, they caused a lot of chaos in the stacks by moving all the books and not moving them back,” said Lise Kreps, the library’s outreach coordinator. “So I think now they’ve been told that if they’re going to do that, they have to file them correctly.” 

Shooting also took place at the High Beam Dreams event venue in Gibsons, Roberts Creek, and at Porpoise Bay for water scenes.  

Orchard anticipated the most taxing day of production would be night scenes on the water. With the oversight of veteran producer John Smith (the longest-running crew member of the CBC’s erstwhile Beachcombers), “it went very well,” recalled Orchard. “Weather, on occasion, was a challenge. And it snowed one day just to throw our continuity off.” 

Producers staked out space above the Sunshine Coast Credit Union for its central coordinating office, and quickly expanded to satellite locations throughout Gibsons. “The [Credit Union] made particular mention of how they were happy to help us because they wanted to help the community,” said Orchard. A rota of local restaurants delivered food to the production office, saving time on meal breaks. 

“It was a fabulous crew,” added Orchard. “Everyone got along really well. Most of the crew said that to me at one time or another: how much they enjoyed working with each other.” 

For some of the more than 400 Sunshine Coast actors who auditioned in January for extra parts, the production led to new opportunities.  

Melissah Charboneau, regional manager for a local insurance outlet, ascended through the ranks to become “continuity background” and made regular appearances in key scenes. Other background actors encouraged her to seek representation. Two days after circulating her resume, she signed with a Vancouver talent agent. An offer for a commercial shoot in Mexico followed almost immediately. 

Stephen Lanegraff, a real-life bylaw officer and last-minute extra, was upgraded to play a role opposite one of the detective characters. “I played Bret Dean,” explained Lanegraff. “It was really cool. My pay was upgraded substantially and I got put into the union.” After four days, he was tapped to drive a police car during a scene in Roberts Creek. Lanegraff secured an agent and recently completed a spate of commercial and feature film auditions. “It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s a lot of new navigating for me.” 

Murder in a Small Town is Fox’s first scripted series co-produced with an international studio. Each self-contained episode in the first season involves Alberg uncovering secrets and investigating killings that take place in the community’s idyllic surroundings. The head writer for the series is Langley-based Ian Weir, who was executive producer of the long-running teen drama series Edgemont

No announcements have yet been publicized regarding a second season of the series. “[The first season] doesn’t end with a cliffhanger per se,” said Orchard. “The biggest continuing story is Alberg and Cassandra and their relationship which has its ups and downs. So people may want to come back and see what’s happening with that.”