HAVEN: A Trip to Discover HAVEN in Chester, Nova Scotia (2013)


HAVEN may have started out as a supernatural television series based on the Stephen King novella “The Colorado Kid,” but within the three seasons that it has aired on Syfy, it has become so much more.  It introduced viewers and fans to its heroine Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) and the mystery of who Audrey really is.  Each episode offered another layer to the curious case of Audrey Parker and the women who she may have been in her other lives: Sarah, Lucy and now Lexie.  Teased by the mysteries and the “troubles” woven into the HAVEN tapestry of stories, the show captured viewers’ attention and hearts.  It was a delightfully slow seduction and one which fans are delighted to be enthralled by.

Thus, when invited to peek behind the curtain of a beloved television show, one jumps at the chance — even when it takes you half way across the world and to a remote seaside village with barely a dozen streets within its borders. The distance from Los Angeles to Chester, Nova Scotia ends up being 3,600 miles and 18 hours of travel, and as the dawn breaks over the East Coast, a whole new world is revealed.  The ocean is crystal blue, the sunlight glistens in the pure air, and there are trees upon trees, the likes of which a California girl rarely sees miles upon end.  California is known for its beaches, deserts, tall mountains, overflowing vineyards, a rich agricultural basin, and perhaps a redwood or two.  Yet nothing can prepare for the vast expanse of raw nature in Nova Scotia, home of literally thousands of small lakes and greenery that stretches from the ocean through the thousands of acres of untouched nature.  There is an almost unnatural stillness that lays over the area as well.

Chester, Nova Scotia

Chester, Nova Scotia

Awakening in Chester, I was startled by the absence of sound.  The normal sounds of cars, people, and the bustle of life is unknown there.  It was eerie as waking up in a zombie film.  Yet there is not a zombie within sight.  This is the world of HAVEN, where they have found a home to film their show that embodies just the right ingredients to imbue their show with a sense of other-worldliness.  For filming in Chester brings a lot of natural elements perfect for the unusual atmosphere of the show: that quiet hush of life in bloom, yet feeling frozen in time.  Its extraordinary beauty also provides a lush backdrop that could not be dreamed up in a million years and makes it seem a bit untouched and untouchable.

My “discover HAVEN” adventure began with a few fun-filled days touring their sets, interviewing cast and crew, watching snippets of filming, and tip-toeing through this special world that creates such a remarkable and addictive show.  From the outside, it only seems normal; not “troubled” at all.  But that is the illusion that they create.  For behind the trailer doors and walls of each set, that’s magic brewing.  Creative minds are abuzz with ideas and there is a flurry of quiet activity as everyone races against the clock to achieve fourteen impossible things each day.

HAVEN is no stranger to a busy schedule.  With barely five months to accomplish the impossible, they have to maximize each precious minute of the workday.  They are constantly aware of the ticking-clock working against them.  As their filming season grows shorter with the rough winter weather looming and pressure of returning their temporary warehouse back to its natural state — the countdown clock is relentless.  HAVEN must beat the weather as they must give up their home back to its natural habitat before the ice-season starts.

HAVEN also plays tug-of-war with its crew, as many will move onto other TV shows and films for the winter season.  In fact, much of HAVEN’s crew also works on the Canadian comedy series CALL ME FITZ (which may go back into production in early 2014 if picked up for Season 5).  So one of the trickiest parts of television scheduling is making sure that one series winds-up its season just in time for another to start filming — for in a rural area like Nova Scotia, there are only so many skilled crew workers available and only so many jobs available. Not only is weather and other time-commitments essential to keep track of, but so is the need to finish up in time to allow crew and talent to gracefully transition into their next project for the winter season.

Chester, Nova Scotia

Chester, Nova Scotia

In fact, everyone was stressed that there was going to be a week overlap this year and that was threatening to wreak havoc with filming HAVEN’s final episode for Season 4.  It would be easy to blame it on the late start to the filming season due to severe spring weather, but there were other contributing factors, such as numerous fans who had made their way from the far corners of the globe to visit Chester and each and every one wanted a chance to chat up the cast and crew.  But each one of those accommodations, in effort to be friendly with the fans, had cost precious time that added up over the all-to-brief filming season. (Yes, HAVEN loves its fans, but they literally cannot stop working to greet each and every one that shows up on their doorstep.)

So my brief foray into the HAVEN world left me with the distinct impression that there was never enough time in a day.  I watched actors rush from scene to scene to film as much as possible each day, with the set dressing crews and art production staff hovering nearby, like busy-bees humming in constant activity to get everything camera-ready for the next scene or the next episode as they would have precious little time to prepare.  There was so much to create in such a brief amount of time.  HAVEN is not a procedural show where the same sets can be used over and over again. HAVEN likes to venture outside of the norm and it demands new sets and new locations to film.  Fortunately, the Chester area is rich in natural ambience and settings that make ideal locations to film.  HAVEN has also found creative ways to film all the scenic vistas all the way down from Peggy’s Cove to the Grey Gull, throughout Chester, and down into Lunenberg; and each locale offers its unique beauty.  HAVEN strives to capture as much of the raw beauty of the magnificent locales that surrounds it, but filming so much on location is time-consuming as well.  The ever-present ticking clock is a beast.

Haven P.D.'s finest (Thomas Cormier, Rosemarie Walton, Colin Hluchaniuk pictured / photo credit: Tiffany Vogt)

Haven P.D.’s finest (Pictured: Thomas Cormier, Rosemarie Walton, Colin Hluchaniuk / Photo credit: Tiffany Vogt)

Life in the HAVEN world may seem idyllic from the outside, but from the inside, it is a tense, action-filled environment.  Everyone has a vital part to play and, fortunately after working 4 years together, they have everything in sync. There is a strong sense of love and appreciation underlying all their work; for working on a television show is a gift and it is one that each of the cast and crew seemed to never lose sight of.  They know that getting the opportunity to work on a show like HAVEN for four seasons is unheard of in today’s modern television climate where shows barely last a season or two.  So it felt like each of the cast and crew were praying and biting their nails that Syfy will order a fifth season; which is not yet a forgone conclusion.  Thus, it feels like each person strives to appreciate every second of their precious time to work on this amazing show.  It has opened doors for each that they value and given them creative opportunities they had not dreamed of.  HAVEN has been an answer to prayers and miraculous gift — one that if snatched away by low ratings will cost them an experience they may never be able to replicate again as they have built a precious family together and the years have forged bonds amongst them that they cherish.

Stepping amidst their world, there is overwhelming sense of urgency and familial love. Outsiders are eyed warily lest they disrupt the careful balance of work and family.  As press, I was even more of an interloper — an invited guest — but one that could use the power of my pen to shatter their sense of peace.  Perhaps that is how I ended up conducting interviews in the HAVEN “morgue.”  I am sure that the location was selected because it offered the best lighting and was the quietest spot for interviews, but there is an unconscious message that it sends as each interviewee was being walked into the “morgue” for an interview — akin to walking the plank.  But once the initial hesitation was overcome, each interview ended up being fun and successful.  One really fun aspect of the interviews were that each of the cast were incredibly deft and funny at avoiding revealing spoilers; except for Eric Balfour who was just itching to talk about one juicy spoiler in particular, so that portion of his interview will have to be held until it is safe to share.  Also revealed during the interviews was how much everyone loves working on the show. The pride and happiness was evident by the gleam in their eyes.  That kind of passion and excitement is not always seen in a show entering its fourth season; yet each was clearly delighted.  Then what was even more fun was the second the camera was off all the things they wanted to talk about that are upcoming on the show.  Because while Season 4 will offer the expected thrills and chills, there will also be a few juicy surprises that they have added just for the fans.

Lunenberg, Nova Scotia

Lunenberg, Nova Scotia

So two days in their world and the sense of loss afterwards was acute. It makes it easy to imagine how painful it would be to give up that intoxicating world of HAVEN after such a long period of working together.  Plus, after witnessing how much care and joyous love goes into every aspect of the show, my appreciation to what we see on the screen is multiplied by tenfold.  This is not a show that they have haphazardly whipped together; there are hours, days, weeks of painstaking detail in every word, every line, every scene, every wardrobe choice and every prop and special effect layering each episode.  They know that their fans are analyzing the minutiae and they must live up to those expectations. There is also an element of pride and self-satisfaction in what they have accomplished.  In fact, it was in the show’s second season that the art department realized that they should find a way to memorialize their work, so they began photographing each set to preserve their hard work.  Magnificent photos line the walls of the art department which showcase all the beautiful work they have done each season.  It is a gallery of their achievements and art which may never be seen again.  The pieces they create cannot all be saved, and some end up as gifts, while others are sold or auctioned off. So their gallery is their way of laying claim to a moment in time when they achieved something art worthy.  Every scene, every episode, every carefully constructed prop or vis-effect can thereby be remembered.

"Haven" sets

“Haven” sets

It was just a few days, but the dedication and hard-work demonstrated by all that work on HAVEN is forever engraved in my memories.  I am grateful for their invitation to share their world and to chat briefly with each of them about their work and the show that they love just as much as the fans.  I will remember the cleanest and cheeriest “morgue” I have ever visited.  I will remember the warm smiles and hugs from welcoming cast and crew.  I will remember the pride with which they all come to work and strive to make the best show on television.  I will remember the magnificent, almost unnatural beauty that surrounds them in a little town called Chester nestled on the wild ocean coast.  I will remember a tiny inn with home cooking that still makes my mouth-water just remembering it.  I will remember the lively little town with sail boats who are proud that HAVEN chose them as a place to call home. I will remember the scrumptious Joyland candy bars that were created as a special nod to Stephen King’s newest book “Joyland.” And I will remember that 13 is a lucky number in HAVEN-land.

For HAVEN returns for its 4th season on Friday, September 13th at 10:00 p.m. on Syfy.  It will then air 13 episodes all the way through to Friday, December 13th, which will be its final episode of Season 4.  It’s a set of three 13’s, with two of them being Friday, the 13th.  So I can feel it in my bones, 13 is a lucky number in HAVEN.

Mecklenburg Inn

Mecklenburg Inn

That’s my “discover HAVEN” adventure and these are a few of the photos I will remember it by HERE.

For the curious, look for interviews from the HAVEN set to be posted over the next two weeks leading up to the HAVEN Season 4 premiere, with a few more interviews being sprinkled throughout the remainder of the season.

Special shout-outs to Suzi Fraser, my gracious host at The Mecklenburg Inn and contributing editor of the Chester Merchants Press, as well as the lovely ladies, Pat and Angela, at the Village Emporium — a fun little video about their store may be seen HERE,  All of them made sure my stay in Chester was a fun and welcoming experience! #DiscoverHaven

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