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Military 'witches' take over Coquitlam film shoot

Props give Centre Lawn a military look for the series Motherland:Fort Salem where a crew shot scenes for the second season of of the TV series

While the formerly named Riverview lands — now səmiq̓wəʔelə — is undergoing transformation with a new name and master planning process, one thing has not changed: its role as a popular movie location.

Last week, the Motherland: Fort Salem shoot turned the iconic site into a military fortress for the series that casts three witches as an elite branch of the U.S. military.

‘No, the U.S. Army is not occupying the Riverview site, and no, Centre Lawn Pavilion is not being destroyed,” noted Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart on his Facebook page as he posted photos of the building in its transformation as a military command centre.Mo

The series is filming its second season in and around several sites in the Lower Mainland according to IMDB, which says shooting for the series is wrapping up this month.

The show portrays an alternate reality in which witches negotiate an ending to their persecution by agreeing to form an elite branch of the U.S. military. 

It follows the lives of Abigail (Ashley Nicole Williams), Tally (Jessica Sutton), and Raelle (Taylor Hickson) in this Sci-Fi tale.

Created by Eliot Laurence, Motherland: Fort Salem is one of dozens of films shot on the 244-acre səmiq̓wəʔelə lands, managed by BC Housing.

Recently, BC Housing and the BC government announced the name change to honour the Kwikwetlem First Nation, which has a land claim on the site, and the name səmiq̓ʷəʔelə is translated from the band’s traditional hən̓q̓əmin̓əm language as ‘The Place of the Great Blue Heron’; the area used to be a roosting site for the bird.

The name change comes as the provincial government — through BC Housing, which manages the 244 acres off Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam — and the KFN launch the master planning stage for the ground’s redevelopment. The final phase follows the visioning process for the land, from 2013 to ’15, that ended with the document called A Vision for Renewing Riverview.

The master plan will include, among other things, the overall design and development approach; land-use recommendations including a mix of housing, commercial, education and healthcare; green space and heritage protection strategies; and a financial plan.

As for filming, there can be up to five companies on site per day, either prepping, cleaning up or actively filming; all are monitored by BC Housing film liaison officers 24/7 to ensure safety and security protocols are met. 

As well, companies also have strict guidelines for filming at the location: Producers must provide a synopsis and a copy of the film script to BC Housing for review; filming that negatively depicts mental health or religion — or sex or nude scenes — is banned.

— with files from Janis Cleugh