For years, Muskoka has been hailed as an idyllic retreat for vacationing celebs, but it appears that Hollywood has finally honed in on the area’s filming appeal.
Starting in mid-August, Canadian director Megan Park, known for her debut film The Fallout and her acting role in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, has been shooting her sophomore feature, titled My Old Ass, in the Township of Muskoka Lakes. Actress Margot Robbie’s company, LuckyChap Entertainment, is producing the film.
Scenes are being shot in Port Carling, Bala, the top of Lake Joseph, MacTier, and Huntsville. “Some films rely on grants from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, so we see films being shot in Parry Sound and northward,” says Norah Fountain, executive director of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce, in an email. “Muskoka gets left out in the cold as the Ontario government doesn’t consider us part of the north. But not this time.”
Filming in the area, which is expected to last until the end of September, has provided an injection into the local economy. “When they said they would need accommodations for over 300 cast and crew, I thought there was no way we would be able to help during high season,” Fountain says. “We are proud that we were able to help connect them with our chamber members who either were able to give them space or help in other ways.”
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Hotels were booked, rental agencies provided cottages, and an event company found space for crew trailers. Fountain says one hotel in Port Carling estimates that it added $75,000 to its revenue this summer thanks to the film. In total, Fountain expects the Muskoka Lakes economy to benefit by $4-5 million.
“I know cast and crew reserved restaurants for entire evenings. One local business opened their doors for grab-and-go breakfasts. One marina was used as a shoot location. Permits had to be paid to the Township of Muskoka Lakes…boats were rented, guides were rented,” Fountain says.
Much of the Muskoka Lakes community wanted to be involved. The film hired residents who were interested in learning about the industry and trained them as crew. And the casting director had to ask Fountain not to share her name after she received over 100 requests from locals looking to be background extras.
“After all the ups and downs since March 2020, this was gold for our Muskoka Lakes community. A real economic boon,” Fountain says.
Daniel Bekerman, the film’s line producer, had a lot to do with choosing Muskoka as the shooting location. “[Megan Park] wrote a script that was set in Muskoka. So, when we started discussing the various places we were going to want to film, it comes up that plenty of times a movie is set in New York and you actually film it in Toronto, or it’s set in the Sahara Desert and you shoot it in the desert outside Las Vegas,” Bekerman says. “But I felt that…really we should just properly shoot this right in Muskoka and not cheat a different area for it. I don’t think there’s anywhere else like it with the particular beauty and culture and people that you find here. To me, to be true to the story, it needed to be right in Muskoka.”
Bekerman’s pitch for Muskoka as the filming location was aided by his familiarity with the area. “My great grandfather went to the Carlingford Hotel, dating back to the turn of the 20th century, and then [bought] a cottage on Lake Joseph in the 20s. Our cottage is, I believe, one of the oldest cottages on the lake. It’s called Patience, and it dates back to the late 1800s. So, I’ve been coming here all my life,” he says.
As far as Bekerman knows, My Old Ass is the first feature film to be shot entirely in Muskoka, at least in recent memory. “I’m sure there are a number of films that have had a few days of shooting here and there, but we are 100 per cent entirely shooting in Muskoka,” he says.
Neither Bekerman nor Fountain were willing to share details on the film’s plot or cast, keeping those details tightly wrapped. And there’s yet to be a definitive release date, but it’s likely the film won’t come out until 2024.
There were some musings in a Muskoka Reddit thread about possible star sightings but none have been confirmed.
“I’m not giving anything away,” Fountain says. “We want them to come back.”