Why the Ottawa Valley is a 'hallmark' of Christmas movie magic

The Hallmark Channel leans heavily on the picturesque Ottawa Valley to capture Christmas movie magic. Here's why.

Another Christmas season is upon us, and so are those locally shot Hallmark movies

Christmas Scavenger Hunt was shot on location in Almonte. Can you recognize this restaurant? (Hallmark Channel)

Even if you've just seen one, you probably know how they'll play out.

There's likely a small-town girl returning to her roots at Christmas, after "making it" in the big city. 

Along the way, she might have forgotten where she came from. But after some soul-searching, she has to decide between the bright lights of the city and the Christmas lights of home — or her city-slicker fiancé and her salt-of-the-earth high school beau. 

Love them or hate them, Hallmark Christmas movies are super popular. And many are shot right here in the Ottawa area with local actors, using local production crews. 

Ainslie S. Wiggs is a production coordinator with Fireside Pictures in Ottawa. She's tasked with making sure many of these productions are completed under tight deadlines and budgets. 

"One of the charming things about Hallmark is that you can watch the film and know that there is going to be a happy ending, " she said.

Charming locales

Wiggs says one of the advantages of making movies in Ottawa is that, by filming with Canadian actors, her production studio has access to tax credits that can help make the final film more "financially feasible."

Then, there's the built-in Christmas vibe in places like Almonte, where Christmas Scavenger Hunt — starring Tom Arnold —  was shot.

The film aired on W Network in Canada last week.

"It's charming. It's got the water. It's got the beautiful old stone buildings," Wiggs said. "It's a beautiful little town, and it's one of the reasons why Hallmark really likes it in its movies."

It also helps that Ottawa's shift from autumn to winter matches the ideal that American viewers have in their minds, she added.

"The fall is beautiful and sunny, with all the leaves changing colour. The winter is Christmas, with sparkly snow and pretty lights. That is what they are looking for." 

Fantasy TV

She says there's even a word for the kind of world that's created in these movies: "Hallmarkian."

"For example, at a Hallmarkian event you wouldn't see people dressed in black. You would see them dressed in the colours that the tone of that film is supposed to replicate, " she said. "There are no beiges in a Hallmark movie." 

Given the rote plot formulas and the locations they can attract spoofs. Saturday Night Live even mocked the genre in a popular "ad" featuring James Franco. 

Despite their predictability, the films get huge ratings. 

"Nobody wants to see gritty and dirty in your fantasy television," Wiggs said.

"You come home, you kick off your shoes, [pour] a glass of wine. You want to be entertained and feel good about it."


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