Spring cleaning: Heartland’s “Garage”

Posted on May 7, 2015

Well, work is now well under way, getting crew hired, moving in those who do not live year-round in Calgary, and basically prepping for the start of production, which is the day after the May holiday. On Tuesday, May 19 filming will commence on the record setting ninth season of television's favourite family drama.

I write 'record setting,' for as most of you know, Heartland is the longest running one-hour drama in Canadian television history. It reached that milestone last season with the 125th episode (episode 804), passing another CBC drama, "Street Legal," which had 124 episodes over eight seasons, from 1987 to 1984. Well this year Heartland will add another 18 new episodes, making it a grand total of 157 (one hundred and fifty-seven, count 'em) episodes in the nine-season saga!

The title above says 'spring cleaning,' and for a good reason; that is exactly what many are doing, getting equipment and sets into place. My spies snuck over to the studio in Calgary that houses the interior sets and sent me some photos that I think you'll find interesting. As you can see, the studio is really a large warehouse; so it's sort of like cleaning out your garage when spring arrives.

The first photo at the top of this blog shows the exterior of the interior of the ranch house. You've never seen this look at it before, because the scrim of the landscape that usually surrounds the 'house' has not been installed yet. But it will be - soon! Production designer Rick Roberts has done a great job designing all these sets.

Let me tell you what these other photos are of...

This was taken from a position right in front of the house in the top photo, looking to the right (you will see the same fence) you can see both Scott's vet clinic (to the left) and the attic to the house (to the right) where Georgie's room is.

This is another photo of the upstairs of the ranch house, taken from the other side of the set from where the last photo was taken. The entire structure is built on a platform, so when you see someone enter the room from inside Georgie's room, they're ascending stairs to get in, which makes it look as if it is indeed above the actual ranch house.

This is Ty's/Caleb's trailer. You can see that the scrim is up, showing the landscape that is in the background. Now in this next photograph...

You can see the extension to the interior that the indoor set of the trailer has. This way the actors and the crew and camera equipment can fit comfortably inside the trailer during filming. There is another trailer identical to this one on location, where all exterior scenes are shot, but few interior scenes are filmed at the exterior set; the vast majority of interior scenes in the trailer are filmed here in the Calgary studio.

Here is the exterior of the barn set. It certainly looks nothing like the barn except for the main sliding door. Do know however that inside it looks exactly like the interior of the actual barn, located at the Heartland Ranch set.

There's Ty's truck (I occasionally call it the Tymobile) on the other side of a scenery scrim. You'll notice the hood is open; let's go take a closer look...

The truck is a 1958 GMC Apache and really is the most recognizable vehicle on the series. As you can see it does not have a lot of frills. Don't ask me if the heater works! But it does have a bench seat, which is always more romantic than the bucket seats you find in vehicles today.

Here's what's under the hood. By today's standards it looks as if something is missing but no, this is what it looks like under the hood of this model of truck.

I asked Billy Janssen, the transportation coordinator if maintenance was difficult or costly. It turns out production has found a mechanic who specializes in repairing and maintaining antique tractors, and he looks after keeping Ty's truck in operating shape. He knows where to go for parts, and so far all has been good.

Occasionally - as in the photo I posted this morning on Heartland on CBC's Twitter page - you'll notice Ty's truck on a flatbed trailer. This is not because the truck doesn't operate; it does that just fine. It is just that between distances from the ranch to the studio, or from the studio to Caleb's trailer, it saves a lot of wear and tear on the vehicle if the only actual motoring around on its own power is done when the scenes are being shot.

Makes sense, no? If you were 57 years old, you would want to be chauffeured around as well!

Anyway, that's an inside look at the inside sets... inside the Heartland studio in Calgary.

Next Thursday I will have some more news and photos for you, and the following Thursday production will have started (YAY!) on season 9. Personally I cant wait!

Until next week I remain, as always, obediently yours.