John Wittmayer walks around his busy 25,000 square-foot film studio in Maple Ridge. Not long ago, it was decked out as a 1950s jazz club, a cozy apartment kitchen, a fancy hotel and a police station with morgue to film the murder mystery series The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco that hit Netflix on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019.
“We tend to cater to local, Canadian productions and so we were thrilled to host Bletchley Circle,” Wittmayer says. “That’s what is so exciting about running a film studio. The space can transform right before your eyes. On Bletchley Circle, it was amazing to observe how the production designers go through the creative process of building a believably vintage world.”
Production designer Joanna Dunn worked on all the sets, but says, “The heart (of the show) is definitely the Bearden apartment, and the kitchen’s the heart of the heart. We wanted to make that feel warm, comforting and inviting, every person’s kitchen.”
Dunn was one of more than 160 people who worked on the crew of Bletchley Circle on any given day. Despite being set in San Francisco, the drama series was fully locally owned and controlled. In fact, with the exception of two British actors, all the cast, writers, directors and on-set crew who brought the story of the original women who code to life were from British Columbia.
“Bletchley Circle is an inspiring example of a high-profile dramatic series developed and produced by a local B.C.-owned company,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture. “I’m thrilled they chose a studio in my community of Maple Ridge to film the series, and the world will get to see B.C. right in their homes.”
The plot goes like this: after wartime codebreaking in the United Kingdom, two Bletchley Circle sleuths head to America and join forces with an American and Canadian code breaker to unlock an unsolved mystery. The show filmed key sets at The Ridge Studios, as well as outdoor locations around B.C., including Langley and New Westminster.
Wittmayer is proud that since 2015, The Ridge Studios has hosted dozens of TV movies and feature films and three TV series including Bletchley Circle. “Maple Ridge continues to be a very film-friendly destination, and we’re pleased to provide a comfortable, cost-effective studio space for film projects shooting in the Lower Mainland.”
Now that The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco is launching on Netflix, the whole creative team – from writers to production crew – is excited about reaching a wider audience with B.C. content.
“B.C. has a lot to offer, especially when it comes to telling our own stories,” says Brian Hamilton, an executive producer at Omnifilm Entertainment. “Not only was the entire crew from B.C., but revenue from worldwide sales of the series comes back to B.C. and is reinvested in creating local jobs and opportunities.”
- Lead actors Crystal Balint and Jessica Harmon both won Leo Awards for their roles on Bletchley Circle. Daegan Fryklind won a Writers Guild of Canada Award for her work on the series.
- The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco was produced by Omnifilm Entertainment in association with U.K.-based World Productions, for Citytv, ITV, BritBox and Netflix. Worldwide distribution is handled by Kew Media.
- The series was produced with the participation of the Province of British Columbia’s film incentive B.C. tax credit and the Canadian film or video tax credit.
- OmniFilm Entertainment is a B.C.-based company that has been in business for 40 years.
- The film industry is a strong economic engine in B.C. In 2018-19, the sector contributed $3.2 billion in production spending to the economy.
- More than 71,000 people work in the film and TV sector in B.C.
The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco: https://twitter.com/bletchleysf
To see on-set photos of Bletchley Circle, visit: https://flic.kr/p/2hb8oat
The Ridge Studios: (twitter.com) https://www.facebook.com/filmmapleridge
Omnifilm Entertainment: https://www.omnifilm.com/home/capabilities
Creative BC: https://www.creativebc.com/
The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco jazz club set
Pictured (L-R): Peter Benson as Archie and Rachael Stirling as Millie.
Photo credit: Colin Bentley