Local filmmaker to bring Sherlock Holmes to Barkerville

For just a few cobblestones of immortalized time, the B in Sherlock Holmes' address - 221B Baker Street - will stand for Barkerville.

Thanks to best-selling writer Stephen King and a cast of bona fide screen stars, local actor-director James Douglas will get a chance to roll film on a Sherlock Holmes tale with a twist.

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And, as one of the main managers at Barkerville Historic Town, the 19th century Cariboo ghost town will also have a major role to play.

The Doctor's Case was a pastiche short-story penned by King for a 1987 tribute anthology to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sixteen of the world's great mystery writers were commissioned to write a story for the book commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Holmes. The Doctor's Case put beloved supporting character

Dr. Watson in the thick of the investigative action.

This is not the first time that a Stephen King story has been adapted for the screen and filmed in the Prince George vicinity.

Large amounts of his alien horror book Dreamcatcher were filmed in this area, and King came in person to visit that set.

This particular story, however, has never been made into a film.

King hasn't committed to coming around again to see this new production's efforts with his own eyes. However, he did have a hand in giving Douglas the green light to shoot this story at all. Douglas was accepted by King's incubator program call Dollar Baby. Through this initiative, aspiring filmmakers are vetted by King's creative team and allowed, if they are chosen, to use a Stephen King story as a basis for their film in exchange for paying the princely royalty fee of $1.

Douglas grew up as a voracious reader. Stephen King books and Sherlock Holmes stories had separate special places in his biblio-heart, but here was a tale that intersected the two. Since Douglas's mind frequently mulls over adapting written words into staged theatre or filmed movie, it was natural to machinate extra on this one. He even constructed some original scenes needed to carry this story from literary form into cinematic form.

He was in a fever of inspiration.

He sat down on Nov. 12 and laid all the plans out in the email application to Dollar Baby. The website promised some kind of answer in a matter of weeks. This pledge got steamrolled by the Dollar Baby administrators who enthusiastically responded with all the yeses they could muster.

He had the "all clear" from the King camp by Nov. 14.

Douglas is a professional actor by trade, he has also done pinches and dashes of directing and writing. He is part of the army of actors that salt the Barkerville streets with gold rush characters each tourist season. This put him in a unique position of unfettered access to authentic mid-1800s buildings, costumes, props, and a special understanding of the times themselves.

The mental storyboarding soon gave him a sense of how Barkerville and its nearby partner site Cottonwood House would fit into the production, but it couldn't pull off all the necessary scenery.

One of the people he called on quickest was his theatre friend and colleague Kate Humble who, like Douglas, is now in management with one of British Columbia's foremost historical locations. She got him the permission he needed to film key scenes at Victoria's Craigdarroch Castle.

"Prince George will also be very important to our plans," said Douglas, who called in his longtime P.G. friend and collaborator Norm Coyne as a co-producer, and he was accompanied by supporting co-producer Kim Feragen.

"In P.G. we are looking to film some hospital interior shots, quite a large contingent of our crew will come from P.G. even for the scenes shot elsewhere, and a lot of our public and private events will be held in Prince George as well."

Another past collaborator of both Douglas and Coyne is movie and television star Denise Crosby. She played Tasha Yar (and other characters) on the Star Trek: The Next Generation series, has had feature roles on shows like The Walking Dead, Prison Break, Ray Donovan, had key single appearances on shows like Dexter, Castle and Scandal, and also played a major role in a past Stephan King film, Pet Sematary.

Douglas and Coyne agreed that for one role in particular, Crosby was their No. 1 choice and they flew to Los Angeles to talk with her about it in person.

"She came to Barkerville in 2013 for our Geek Weekend that later evolved into our annual steampunk event," said Douglas. "She was so wonderful to work with. She so 'got' Barkerville and she was genuinely interested in what we did theatrically in Barkerville. So we stayed in touch. And then, when she came back to the area as one of the VIPs at Northern FanCon last May, that just cemented our feelings for her."

Another guest at the most recent FanCon event was Michael Coleman, one of the recurring supporting stars of the TV show Once Upon A Time (among many other voice and live-action credits). Coleman's appearance at FanCon was sponsored by Barkerville. He and Douglas once worked together on the historically-based theatre production Storeum in Vancouver.

"Michael was another talented actor we happened to have a close relationship with, he also understood and appreciated Barkerville, and he just seemed perfect for a certain role as well," Douglas said.

Coleman and Crosby both said yes.

Some other pivotal roles also got filled by their first choice in actors.

Joanna Douglas (she plays Samantha Strange in CBC's popular show Being Erica) signed on, and by coincidence she has also been in a past Stephen King adaptation (The Listener).

Longtime Newfoundland/B.C. stage actor J.P. Winslow has been one of Barkerville's most popular period players, with featured parts on the street and on the Theatre Royal stage. He was tapped by Douglas for the role of Sherlock Holmes.

Ian Case, one of the most applauded stage actors in the Victoria theatre community, was also brought in for one of the roles, as was Los Angeles-Vancouver stage and voice actor Erin Fitzgerald (Ever After High, Ask The Storybots, Monster High).

Jer Breaks, the Prince George musician once with the group Redgy Blackout and now with the Dallas Smith Band, filmed his breakout solo video in Barkerville.

He is now on board as the composer of the film's original score. He is being overseen by superstar music producer-composer Ken "Hiwatt" Marshall (Linkin Park, Skinny Puppy, The Humble Brothers, and a rodeo cowboy) based now in the Cariboo.

More casting announcements are pending.

"More than 50 people already confirmed for the cast and crew, most of them from local region, so it is an awesome opportunity for professional development in our building film industry," he said.

He anticipates filming will start in spring and post-production to be completed by the end of summer. He and the team of co-producers are seeking grants and sponsors to boost the budget of the project, but that must be done with all investors fully aware that this film will never be sold for a profit to traditional distributors.

They have to invest for the sake of making films, storytelling and celebrating the many creative facets of cinema.

"This is a noncommercial shoot," Douglas explained. "We are looking to show it but not sell it; that's the beauty of the Dollar Baby program. And apparently Stephen King has personally viewed all the projects through Dollar Baby that have ever been completed. It's a great opportunity for me to achieve my personal aim which is to make a good movie based on an excellent story. Those are the goals. Commercial success really is secondary to artistic success, thanks to the way Dollar Baby works as a program. And if, by some chance, Stephen King likes it, that would be the real icing on the cake."

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