An acclaimed Canadian movie maker chose historic Woodlands Estate for a fictional film that was shot in March and will be released sometime next year.
Stephen Wallis, a 52-year-old Unionville resident who has received praise in the industry for his work as a writer, director and producer, chose the Barrie landmark for his latest project, Campton Manor, because it worked perfectly for the story. It is about a writer who makes his living by being able to see ghosts.
While a very small part of the movie was shot in Huntsville, Wallis said about 98 per cent of the movie is based in Barrie, specifically the Woodlands mansion, which has come be known as the Titanic House because it was once the home of the late Lt.-Col. Arthur Peuchen. He is one of the few male survivors of the famous sunken ship.
The property is now owned by Mark and Cathy Porter. Since they bought it in the late ‘90s, they began refurbishing it. Wallis knew Mark Porter through one of his employees, who introduced the two. Wallis planned to do a previous film at the house but it fell through. He revisited the idea again for Campton Manor, realizing it had the perfect setting for the story.
“It literally looks like a time warp from the 1920s,” Wallis said. “Mark Porter uses it as a cottage in the summer. It has this huge production value. The film looks like it is a $5-million movie just because how amazing the house was.”
Jason London, known for his work in the movie, Dazed and Confused, plays the character Jack in the lead role.
“The story follows him as he investigates this very famous case called Campton Manor, where during a New Year’s Eve party back in the ‘20s everyone in the entire house was killed and no one can ever figure out why,” explains Wallis. “What our lead actor does is he goes back to investigate because he can see ghosts and he finds himself within the actual event itself. Without giving away too much, we find out he’s actually an important part of the event.”
Directed by Cat Hostick, the film also features actor Shawn Roberts (X-Men, Resident Evil) and Kenneth Welsh (Miracle, Twin Peaks). Wallis tends to employ actors with whom he has worked previously.
“I try to create a film family,” Wallis said. “Producers and directors that are successful, a lot of times, they use actors that they believe in.”
One of Wallis’ earliest films, A Christmas Too Many, included Mickey Rooney. Wallis has worked with the likes of Graham Greene (The Green Mile), Sienna Guillory (Resident Evil: Retribution) and Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia, Goodbye Mr. Chips) several times. He worked with Burt Reynolds, who appeared in Wallis’ film, Defining Moments, which was shot last year in Unionville.
“I try to find actors who are actors first rather than the celebrity types,” he said. “I tend to work with people who respect the craft.”
It took Wallis less than a week to write the film, which is normally the length of time it takes, albeit spending virtually 24 hours a day locked in on the project. It was shot in three weeks, which also fits Wallis’ working method.
Photo: A scene from the fictional film Compton House shot at Woodlands Estate. Photo courtesy of Stephen Wallis.