By Vanessa Broadbent
A black El Camino races down a dirt road in rural Nevada, a black SUV full of men armed to the teeth in close pursuit.
It’s 2030 and government agent Noah Kross is fleeing across the United States.
But it’s not. It’s late 2016 and Nicolas Cage is starring in his latest movie filmed mainly in Oliver and Osoyoos.
Now, just over a year later, The Humanity Bureau is ready for release and the world premiere of the film was hosted at the Oliver Theatre on Wednesday evening.
The theatre wasn’t only the location of the first screening – it was also the setting for one of the film’s scenes, featuring extras from the area.
For Destee Kline who grew up in Oliver, it was not only surreal seeing the local theatre on its own screen, but nostalgic as well.
Kline has a role in The Humanity Bureau as “Schroder’s daughter,” a revolutionist.
Kline has dreamed of seeing herself on the big screen since she studied drama at Southern Okanagan Secondary School.
“I had my first date in this theatre,” she said. “To watch it here was really special.”
Kline shared the experience with her husband, Paul, who appeared in the film as a body double and driver. Her son Jett also had a part.
Jett, who is “almost nine,” played the child version of Cage’s character. He says his favourite part of working on the film was a mishap during a scene filmed at Vaseux Lake where he was fishing.
“The fishing wire got caught,” he said. “They didn’t show it but I was pulling it and I fell back onto the dock. That was fun.”
Jett’s scene at Vaseux Lake, with McIntyre Bluff framing the background, is one of many in the film that showcases the South Okanagan.
Rob W. King, the film’s director, said it was an easy decision to choose Oliver and Osoyoos as the filming location.
“The idea was to have this more monochromatic landscape you get around here in the fall and winter when everything is one brown kind of colour.”
But filming in the fall and winter meant working around rain and snow, which didn’t fit into the original barren landscape with depleted resources that the script planned for.
“It was supposed to be that the world was dried out but actually it rained for about a month before we started shooting,” King said.
“We changed it to acid rain and then when we started shooting it was sunny for three days, and then snowed the rest of the time. So we changed everything again.”
Despite the unpredictable weather, King and Kevin DeWalt, the film’s producer, both from Saskatchewan, found the area’s landscape captivating.
DeWalt had already filmed a movie in the Vernon area and his current project Daughter of the Wolf is filming in West Kelowna, but the South Okanagan was new territory.
“I had never been here before and I was blown away,” DeWalt said. “It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in Canada and I don’t think people realize just how desert-like it is and extreme and beautiful all together. It’s remarkable.”
Even for those who are familiar with the area, seeing it in a Hollywood production reignites an appreciation for its beauty.
But the scenery wasn’t the only perk that came with working in Oliver and Osoyoos.
“Everyone was really supportive in a way that you don’t get in big cities,” King said. “Here we felt like we were welcome into the neighbourhood.”
With scenes filmed on the Osoyoos Indian Band, at the Okanagan Correctional Centre (OCC), as well as local homes and businesses, King and his crew really were immersed into the community.
The OCC, which at the time was nearing the end of its construction, makes an appearance several times throughout the film, serving as a location for a scene shot in an elevator and a computer room.
“We were actually the first people in there,” King said. “It was just being finished and they were really gracious and let us film in there.”
An apartment in downtown Oliver doubled as the interior of a ranger station at a border crossing, and a pool at a hotel in Osoyoos stands in for Vaseux Lake in one scene.
“We dressed it up with tarps and things to make it seem like it was in a lake,” King said.
Thanks to modern technology, the same pool is actually used as two locations.
In one scene, a character is seen swimming near a window with a view of a booming city complete with high-rises. Other than the water, the entire set was built post-production.
The film’s most recognizable location – the Oliver Theatre – was not originally planned to be part of the film.
The scene was supposed to be shot in a school gymnasium, all of which King said weren’t available at the time. So then the Oliver Legion was considered, but the building was undergoing construction.
“Then it dawned on us – why don’t we shoot it in the theatre?”
King said that working in smaller towns usually means more people willing to help out, whether making an appearance as an extra or helping get a vehicle running.
“There’s a kind of excitement and sense of community and there’s a lot of people who really can figure out how to get stuff done.”
But being further away from a city comes with its own set of challenges as well, like finding enough extras or certain supplies. But King found that most of those issues were “pretty minor challenges.”
It also means putting up with “small town gossip,” which in King and DeWalt’s case lead to rumours of Clint Eastwood taking the film’s starring role.
King and DeWalt were getting their hair cut at Dirty Hairys Barber in Osoyoos when the barber asked them if Eastwood would be in the film.
“She’s a Clint Eastwood fan and she heard that he was in the movie and that he was in town,” King said. “She was trying to get us to tell her where because she wanted him to come to the salon.
“We just kept telling her it wasn’t true and within a matter of days, this had spread all over the town and through Oliver as well. Somebody had heard her talking in the grocery store about it. It was funny.”
But the one secret King tried to keep – that Cage was the film’s leading actor – was kept successfully, with no one knowing until he actually showed up.
While Cage didn’t make an appearance at Wednesday’s premiere, the audience still got to watch him walk through the doors and up the aisle of the theatre.
In April, the public will be able to have the same experience. The Humanity Bureau will be showing at the Oliver Theatre from April 7-10 and 12-13. For more information, visit olivertheatre.ca.