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Filming in Canada called a smart move

Elizabeth’s story is being shot in Nova Scotia

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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Filmmakers for "The Elizabeth Smart Story" say you can blame Canada. More specifically you can blame the Canadian dollar.

Patricia Clifford, executive producer for the Elizabeth Smart movie, said the decision to film in the Halifax region instead of Salt Lake City was all about budget.

"That was a financial decision," she said. "I cannot remember the last time I shot a movie in America. It's too bad. It's that Canadian dollar. You can't beat it. And there aren't enough incentives, I think, for producers to make movies in America."

Shooting movies in less expensive Canada and Halifax in particular is nothing new. For the past five years, the movie industry has averaged $120 million to $130 million worth of business in Nova Scotia each year, said Ann MacKenzie, executive director of the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation.

About $89 million of that is created by local filmmakers, she said.

Much of the "Titanic" movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet was filmed in Halifax. Academy Award-winning "Bowling for Columbine" was produced by a Halifax-based company and debuted at the annual Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax.

This year's Atlantic Film Festival wrapped up Saturday. The feature film at this year's event starred Olympia Dukakis.

"We have a very, very talented local film community," MacKenzie said.

In addition, Halifax offers full-service movie infrastructures including four sound stages and a camera rental house.

Because of all Halifax has to offer, MacKenzie said she believes the value of the Canadian dollar is just one factor that lures movie producers north of the border.

"The dollar has been a very good deal in the past," she said. "But that's not going to be a lasting thing. The Canadian dollar has climbed significantly in the past year."

MacKenzie also said she believes filmmakers will continue traveling to Nova Scotia more for the local scenery and producers than the dollar in the next few years.

The Elizabeth Smart movie is being filmed at several existing locations around Halifax. Very few stages were created for the movie. Clifford said this has been one of the smoothest movie shoots she's ever done and credits the professionalism of the local crews for that.

Because the project was put together so quickly, Clifford said she didn't have the option of waiting for a movie studio in an area that was more similar to Utah, such as Calgary or Winnipeg, to become available. She acknowledges that not having any mountains to shoot has been a bit of a challenge. But she said all the scenes that relate to the foothills, such as Elizabeth's alleged abductors' campsite in Dry Creek Canyon, were shot close up so viewers wouldn't see majestic mountains even if that's where the scene was shot.

Nevertheless, she said, the movie's biggest critics may come from the Beehive State.

"I think it will be hard for people in Salt Lake to accept," Clifford said of the houses and the scenery not being exactly as Utahns remember it from local news coverage. "But I think the whole spirit of the movie is what should be looked at. I don't think (all) of America needs to see the (actual) Smart house."

Ed and Lois Smart wanted to tell a story of "hope and inspiration and faith," Clifford said. And she said that's what people should get out of the movie, not the height of the mountains.

E-MAIL: preavy@desnews.com