Last winter there was quite the local buzz when TVO’s Hard Rock Medical rolled into town to shoot its third season entirely in North Bay.
February and March saw Canadore College bristling with activity as cast and crew worked on the show, loosely inspired by the world-renowned Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM).
These nine new episodes set to air in the new year with a special sneak peak in North Bay beforehand, will feature the return of their Canadian ensemble cast, but most notably, local talent Jamie Spilchuk who plays medical student Cameron Cahill, who helped his series colleges warm up to his hometown in the middle of winter.
“Being from North Bay was a really cool homecoming for me,” he said. “Not only did I get to see and film in the place I grew up, but got to work with people I went to high school with so it was such a cool experience to come full circle.”
Derek Diorio, co-creator of the series, praised his experience up north and the partnership with Canadore College in producing the season.
“I’ve shot a lot in the winter up north and you always have trailers that break down among other things, and it costs a fortune and the schedule is always late,” he said. “But Canadore is blessed with a lot of things, rooms, programs, and a lake and a river and huge amounts of forestry behind it. We staged at Canadore and could do pretty much everything from there. Either up a floor and shoot or out back. Two of the three snowmobile shoots were done under 100 feet behind Canadore. We also used the (North Bay Regional Health Centre), who let us have a week in a decommissioned room that we wouldn’t have been able to build otherwise.”
Diorio said when he works on a project, he likes to punch above his weight with the time and budget he has to work with and shooting in North Bay gave him more than what he needed to achieve what he wanted—including the students from Canadore’s program.
“The students coming out of the program were really well trained,” he said. “In a lot of cases, the students did quite a bit better than professionals who’ve been around for quite a few years.”
But it wasn’t just a coincidence that it worked out so well for Hard Rock; Diorio said his past experiences in town lead him to write these new episodes with Canadore specifically in mind.
“It was the natural evolution of the show, loosely following the curriculum for the school of medicine, and we wanted to do the winter season this time around. The way we constructed this year, we wrote it basically around the Canadore campus,” he said. “We had done our second season and we hooked up with Canadore to do a series of mini-documentaries and we put these musical subjects in front of the students and the students did some really great work and made good working relations with them. We hit it off. I loved working with the people in the program and all the people I’ve met there. It just seemed to make sense to come to the college and have lots of teaching opportunities for students.”
For Spilchuk, he feels his natural evolution in the industry beckons for him to take a shot behind the camera as well.
“Before the season I sat down with Derek and I asked him about shadowing him on the directing side of things,” he said. “I’m looking forward to something like that further in my career. Derek is not only a director, he’s a creator and writer and I wanted to find out what he had to do before the actors even get on the set to see what they need to do to make sure everything is good to go. I haven’t directed yet, but I’m definitely starting to get that eye. I’m starting to learn from experience.”
And in looking at his own opportunities, which draw him to Northern Ontario more frequently, he said he’s been seeing so much growth in the industry and so many more opportunities up north.
“It looks like it’s here to stay. A lot of people are coming north,” he said. “We used to only really be able to do community theatre and now I’m sure people are even moving from smaller cities to North Bay or Sudbury because of all the infrastructure up here. Before we had all this a lot of talented people stayed and stuck it out while things developed and I think a lot are reaping the benefits now.”
And with the production complete in North Bay, Diorio said the whole experience would draw him back here in a heartbeat to work on other projects.
“In the future, I have other projects I’m hoping to bring to Canadore, for different facilities that will hopefully be up and running in 2018,” he teased.
As TVO’s first commissioned drama series, Hard Rock Medical, returns with nine new episodes in January 2017. The episodes premiere on TVO starting on Sunday, January 8 at 8 pm, and for the first time, all the new episodes will be available on demand on tvo.org following the January 8 broadcast.
TVO Executive Christine Lee said although this isn’t the first time this has been done—putting an entire series online at one—it is certainly a trend TVO intends to embrace to a degree.
“It was a good discussion here at TVO and what it’s doing is reflecting the habits of viewers which is to have access to content and control themselves how they watch it,” she said. “I think it will benefit the series by having an audience have access to all of it. We’ve done it before with a series and we do try and push a little bit more of it now.”
Spilchuk as well felt the trend currently edges toward bingeing your favourite shows on your own time—a habit he admitted to having to a degree.
“A lot of people are adopting this trend and I think it’s awesome,” he said with a laugh. “You want to watch it while you want to watch it and I’m a binge watcher—I’m a bit of a TV junkie but haven’t watched as much since my daughter has been born, but my wife and I will be getting back on track soon enough.”
For the people of North Bay, who hosted Hard Rock Medical last winter, there will be a special sneak-peak event at the Capitol Centre days before the new episodes air.
The Hard Rock Medical Season 3 sneak peak launch event will be on January 5 at North Bay's Capitol Centre, and will be raising funds for the Canadore College Student Scholarship Fund, the North Bay Food Bank and the North Bay Regional Health Centre Foundation.
Starting with 6 p.m. cocktails and continuing with 7 p.m. entertainment and screening, the sneak peak will feature Hard Rock Medical actors, live performances by Northern musicians, and some mini-documentaries on Northern artists created by the Digital Cinematography students at Canadore College. These mini-docs give an in-depth look into life in the north accompany the series.
Topics include: the Full Moon Ceremony, inspiring accounts from the Nipissing First Nation, and the art and music of Hard Rock Medical. The short films will also air on TVO in January and be available on tvo.org following the broadcast.
Tickets start at $10 plus a non-perishable food item donation and more information can be found here.