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An American Girl returns to Riverbend

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Lights, camera, action. That’s what residents in Riverbend saw when they drove by the Red River Community Centre on Murray Avenue in late September. Following-up on the first film shot in Winnipeg last year, a second American Girl film was shooting scenes in Winnipeg in September.

Christine Solberg, a Riverbend resident and assistant to the director (Vince Marcello) and two executive producers (Debra Martin Chase and Leah Keith), was on set during the filming, which took place at the community centre as well as West Kildonan Collegiate.

"We shot a variety of scenes in and around the Red River Community Centre for a classroom scene, a car wash, bake sale, and utilized the skate park in the background. We also used

West Kildonan (Collegiate) for two consecutive weekends, making use of the cafeteria, hallways and music room" Solberg says.

 She says that the community centre and school were both chosen as locations because of their likeness to a school in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N.M, where the second half of the movie was shot.

"It was crucial to keep continuity between the cities," Solberg says.

Winnipeg is becoming more and more popular for Hollywood films, due to the attractive tax credits offered, experienced and talented crew, plus the diverse look of the city.
Solberg works full-time in the film industry, and has performed a variety of positions from production co-ordinator and director’s assistant to location scout.

"It has provided me with a wealth of information on how films are made; from the weeks of prep, to the actual shooting, to the post production," Solberg says.

"I find myself watching movies from a different perspective now. Instead of just thinking, I wonder what’s going to happen next, I find myself picturing how each shot was filmed", she says.  

 Last year, more than $50 million was brought into Manitoba through film productions, says Ginny Collins of Manitoba Film and Music. Collins explains that Manitoba has a very healthy local production community, and is excited about a recent local film entitled My Awkward Sexual Adventure, which was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival this year.

"It’s having a lot of success internationally," Collins says.

The Government of Manitoba offers the highest tax credits in Canada for film production, making Manitoba a desirable place for filmmakers. Collins says Manitoba has a great reputation for having hard-working and skilled crews.

"We have highly experienced and skilled producers in Manitoba that are fantastic to work with."

The first American Girl film, entitled McKenna Shoots for the Stars, was shot here in Winnipeg last year. The recently-filmed movie is based on the 2013 Girl of the Year doll, which will be revealed in January. It will star Jane Seymour and Kerr Smith. While the crew is still tight-lipped about the actual storyline or title, fans of the series can expect the film to be released next summer.

Alisa Pihulak is a Riverbend-based writer.

Neighbourhood Forum is a readers’ column. If you live in The Times area and would like to contribute to this column, contact jim.timlick@canstarnews.com.

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