On April 10, orange cones reserving curbside parking spaces sprouted for a block and a half on Blackburn Avenue. For the next two days, the line of half a dozen white rental trucks was parked all day in front of allsaints Event Space and continued on down the hill. A couple of portable generators thrummed noisily between the trucks. What was happening on April 11 and 12 on this usually quiet street in Sandy Hill? Upon investigation, the answer revealed itself. Parking permission had been granted by the Ottawa Film Office to facilitate the making of a feature film tentatively titled The Exchange,
Bate Hall had been chosen as one location for this coming-of-age comedy set in small-town Ontario. “We didn’t solicit this at all,” says Leanne Moussa, President of allsaints. “They came to us. I had no idea this was a big motion picture with famous actors like Justin Hartley.”
The hot pink sign in front of allsaints Event Space points the way to the set of “The Exchange,” a coming-of-age comedy directed by Dan Mazer in which Bate Hall will stand in for a town hall in small town Ontario.
Almonte was the town chosen for much of the filming, but some scenes required the interior of a town hall. Robin Brinsmead was the person who negotiated use of the space. When she got the call in her home in Niagara-on-the-Lake, she thought she would be coming to Ottawa just to help out, but soon found herself fully involved. Though Ottawa had changed a lot since she left here in 1984, she knew, having been an Anglican parishioner, that an Anglican church might have a hall that would fit the bill for the town hall scenes. Following up on this channel brought her an address: 10 Blackburn Avenue. It was only when she arrived at the door that she realized she was coming back to her old church. “We used to have Hallowe’en parties in Bate Hall,” she recounts. “I have photos on my phone of my kids all those years ago, when they were 1 and 4, standing on the stage where we were going to film.” Bate Hall had also been the location for another chapter in Robin’s life, before she started working in film and theatre. In 1983, when she was a stay-at-home mum living in Sandy Hill, she, along with her friend Robin Dunbar, was part of an initiative spearheaded by fellow parishioner Kitty Galt. A small group of women convinced All Saints Anglican Church to turn its parish hall into a women’s shelter which ran for a number of years.
The women’s shelter is long gone from Bate Hall. The space where Robin once helped bring beds for homeless women was used by the film crew just this past month to build floats that will be in a parade to be filmed in Almonte on April 25. Although she feels regret that her one-time church no longer houses religious services, Robin admires the vision of allsaints Event Space to preserve the heritage and serve the community in a different way. Some things change, but the foundations remain. “The spirit worked in a weird way to bring me back here,” Robin muses. “I’d lost contact with Kitty and Robin, but now we’ve reconnected and it’s like we just talked yesterday.” Who would have thought that a Canadian-British movie production would put our local hall to a new use and bring old friends together again? Who would have thought that Bate Hall would show up in a feature film? Watch for The Exchange, directed by Dan Mazer, in a movie theatre sometime this next winter and see how the former parish hall has been transformed into a typical Ontario town hall.
Photos Betsy Mann