Vernon resort sparkles in Hallmark spotlight

Actress Bonnie Sommerville films a scene captured by camera operator Marco Ciccone for made-for-TV movie Mother’s Day Off. The filming took place all this week at Vernon’s Sparkling Hill Resort. - lisa vandervelde /MORNING STAR
Actress Bonnie Sommerville films a scene captured by camera operator Marco Ciccone for made-for-TV movie Mother’s Day Off. The filming took place all this week at Vernon’s Sparkling Hill Resort.
— image credit: lisa vandervelde /MORNING STAR

Patrons clad in plush, white robes and slippers stroll underneath the three-tiered crystal chandelier in the lobby at Sparkling Hill Resort.

It’s not an unusual sight, considering this is a wellness resort that literally sparkles with thousands upon thousands of Swarovski crystals.

However, on this occasion, the robed guests have to navigate around wires connected to bright-as-the-sun strobe lights, gaffers holding electrical equipment and a giant camera.

It may seem like the glamorous life at first, until the director calls cut, the lead actress and extras  return to their positions, and the scene is filmed over and over again.

This is just part of the making of Hallmark Channel’s movie-of-the-week, Mother’s Day Off, which will be shown in the U.S. in May.

While some crew members have been staying at a hotel near downtown Vernon, the cast and producers have been at Sparkling Hill all week to enjoy some of the resort’s amenities.

Actress Ona Grauer could be seen rejuvenated after experiencing the cold sauna, which dips to temperatures down to 110 below Celsius. (That’s -166 Fahrenheit to our American friends.)

“This place just fit the bill,” said producer Ira Pincus, who hails from California and has worked on a number of TV productions from coast-to-coast in Canada and the U.S.

Written by husband and wife team Neal and Tippi Dobrofsky (who wrote Goodnight For Justice, also produced by Pincus, starring Beverly Hills 90210 alumni Luke Perry and Jason Priestley), Mother’s Day Off is about a mother, Laura (played by Bonnie Sommerville), who needs an escape and so goes on a retreat with her former college roommate and best friend, Trish (Grauer).

James Tupper (Men in Trees) stars as Laura’s husband Michael.

“The original concept was like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but with a mom,” said Pincus. “It’s about what a woman with kids would do if she needs to get away... she’d go to a fancy hotel.”

Set in Northern California, it was director Mark Jean who brought Sparkling Hill to the attention of Pincus and his fellow producer Jonathan Schwartz, of Toronto, and Robert Lee of Vancouver.

“His girlfriend showed him a pamphlet of the resort and we were agreed. We like to put beautiful things in our production value before the screen,” said Lee, adding that some of the crew, many from Vancouver, had already heard of Sparkling Hill.

“The women know where Sparkling Hill is, and when I tell people it’s near Predator Ridge (Golf Resort), the men know it.”

“This has high production value that has been unseen before. It’s not overused. If we were in Vancouver, people would see the sails (of the Pan Pacific Hotel) or Burrard Inlet and recognize it,” added Lee.

Besides the setting, the production is also using locals as extras. Resort TV’s (R-Town) Angela Case could be seen acting as a hotel staff member at Thursday’s day of shooting in the resort’s lobby.

“We have to bring on locals. It’s exciting for them to come play with us,” said Pincus. “We’ve also used some of the hotel staff who have put our actors through mud treatments and foot baths. We also used extras in the restaurant scene.”

Scenes have also been shot in the resort’s spa, with its out-of-this world aroma-therapeutic steam and sauna rooms.

“Our cast have been happy and very lucky,” said Pincus.

Both Pincus and Lee have been so impressed with Sparkling Hill and its views of Okanagan Lake and the surrounding mountains, as well as the hospitality, they say they would both consider using the area for future film projects.

“It’s been great to branch out of Vancouver,” said Lee.


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