Montreal

Small Quebec town goes back to the 17th century, thanks to an American film crew

An American film crew has descended upon the burg of Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, setting up what passes for a 17th-century village which serves as the backdrop for a series about settlers in New France, based on Annie Proulx's best-selling novel, Barkskins.

The TV series is based on Annie Proulx's New York Times best seller, Barkskins

Locals were surprised by how quickly the construction crews were able to put up these faux houses. (Youtube)

An American film crew has descended upon the town of Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, setting up what passes for a 17th-century village to serve as the backdrop for a series about settlers in New France.

Barkskins is based on the 2016 New York Times best seller of the same name by Annie Proulx, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Shipping News and the short story Brokeback Mountain.

It follows the story of two French families over a 300-year period, beginning with their arrival in what would become Canada and their work in the fur and timber industries.

For the National Geographic-produced TV series, a film crew set up shop in Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, about 30 kilometres northwest of Quebec City.

Proulx's book begins with the two central characters working as woodcutters — barkskins — and follows their interactions with unforgiving nature and Indigenous communities.

Over the centuries, the book tracks the demise of old wood forests and the rise of the climate crisis.

Brent Montgomery, mayor of the small municipality, told Radio-Canada that he's thrilled to have the film crew working in his backyard.

"I am proud of our town and for being chosen for a production of this scale," he said. 

He said that the community is happy to have the economic windfall and an up-close look at how movie magic is created.

On the edge of town, the crew has set up a number of fake houses and buildings that act as the central backdrop for the series.

"There can be 75 workers at the same time," said Montgomery.

Isabelle Paradis, who lives close to the set, said she was surprised by the speed at which crews assembled everything.

While filming for the National Geographic series Barkskins, crews put together a 17th century village in Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier. (Youtube)

"The amount of materials they put up! It's impressive what they did in a month and a half."

She said there have been some benefits beyond just celebrity-spotting. (The show stars Marcia Gay Harden and David Thewlis.)

"We never thought we'd see the day our street got paved. But for the production, our street's paved," she said.

The production team is keeping the set closed to media, but in a recently released trailer for the show, it is possible to see how the local countryside plays into the fabric of the drama.

Representing Indigenous heritage

Steeve Gros-Louis, director of the Huron-Wendat Sandokwa dance troupe, is appearing in the TV series along with his children.

He said he was impressed with the scale of the production and feels the end result will be respectful toward his people and their history.

Steeve Gros-Louis, right, alongside his children on the set of Barkskins. (Submitted by Steeve Gros-Louis)

In Barksins, Gros-Louis and his son play the role of Huron-Wendat guardians who protect the Filles du Roy.

While the book is a mix of history and fiction, he said that it's clear the production team has done its research, adding that it was clear the team was committed to having Huron-Wendat people portraying these roles.

With files from Radio-Canada

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