2020 FILM SHOOT
The Christmas Story 2020: The Story Behind the Film
In the beginning
The Christmas Story pageant began in London, England at the St. Martin’s-in-the-Field church. The pageant was closed down because of the London Blackouts during WW2. The Queen and her sister Margaret were taken to see a performance when they were little girls. The pageant was brought to Toronto`s Church of the Holy Trinity in 1938 by Patricia Frank, the daughter of the priest in charge at St. Martins-in the-Fields. It has been an annual tradition ever since.
Every year for the past 82 years, the production has faced its challenges from finding babies to play the role of the infant Jesus to making a last minute location switch in 1977 when the church was badly damaged by a fire.
And then came 2020, the year of the pandemic
COVID threw us our greatest challenge ever. “In September we really wondered how on earth we could possibly safely
stage the pageant,” said long time director Susan Watson. “But, as usual small miracles fell into place allowing us to take the pageant outside the church and produce a beautiful film while respecting COVID requirements.”
Angels came to the rescue
‘Angel’ investors committed seed funds upfront that allowed the project to hire a professional film crew. And not just any crew. We hired Eric Miller of THALWEG Media, who came with a track record of working on another
challenging church project – a documentary about a 40-day Jesuit Truth and Reconciliation canoe trip.
Performers from the usual two volunteer casts stepped up to the plate and were willing to give their best performance in a
totally unfamiliar medium. And, they agreed to do this outside, in front of curious onlookers while staying within their household bubbles and physically distanced from others.
Staying true to our roots
The film incorporates the professional sound recording of the narration, carols and organ music and the gorgeous costumes the stage production is known for. And of course we incorporated so much of the beauty of Holy Trinity inside and out.
“And the greatest miracle of all,” said Susan. “We found a real baby to play Jesus who came with parents willing to put on duplicate Mary and Joseph costumes and play those roles whenever the shot required a live baby to play the role of the infant Jesus.
Keeping it COVID-safe
Just to make sure all the COVID safety rules were followed Susan recruited her physician spouse, Ian Digby to be the COVID compliance officer. He ensured all safety measures were in place including pre-shoot and on-set screening, temperature checks, hand sanitation, physical distancing and mandatory mask wearing when the camera was not rolling.
Setting the classic story in a modern urban environment
The Church of the Holy Trinity is one of Toronto’s architectural treasures. It is located in Trinity Square on the west side of the busy Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto. It is close to Old City Hall with its distinctive clock tower and bronze gargoyles and Yonge Dundas Square where people of all walks of life can be seen going about their daily lives.
The film crew made full use of this environment, using the historical buildings and the busy hustle and bustle of the city crowd to full advantage.