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Behind The Scenes: Location and Production

Benjamin Nicholas

“Part of the excitement of creating a film is discovering those environments that are so accurate for the story that they can suspend an audience’s disbelief; so that the world portrayed onscreen is nothing less than reality."

Around 1984, before the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables came out, Kevin Sullivan would be driving around different rural areas trying to find the most accurate landscape to capture the tranquil farming community of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. In Canada, with four seasons of changes, he came to quickly realize that he still would have to make many exterior and interior sets. Hence, it would not make much of a difference if he filmed in PEI or just outside of Toronto.

Sullivan was heavily criticized for this, but he moved past it. Trying to locate the ideal location to stage his version of Anne of Green Gables outside of Toronto was a challenge, but a challenge that he overcame. Sullivan was determined to create the picturesque, storybook-like atmosphere of PEI that Lucy Maud Montgomery described in her works. He eventually found the production’s signature location 15 minutes from the town of Leaksdale, Ontario, where L.M. Montgomery lived for over a decade after leaving PEI.

After assessing the locations, Sullivan decided to change the chronology of the story to the early 1900s, which is about two decades after Montgomery’s version. His reasoning for this decision was because he believed that this timeline presented a more attention-grabbing look, in both the costume sand architecture that would be used in the film. The setting was adapted, to the early Edwardian period over the late Victorian period.

Sullivan created his unique narrative used to interpret Anne Shirley’s world harmoniously on screen. After filming around Ontario, he and his small team went over to PEI to capture all the epic shots of the Island that over time have inspired fans around the world to visit. Many tourists come to PEI for the main purpose of visiting the film’s locations.

This pattern of choosing unique locations in Ontario and filming scenery in Prince Edward Island proved to be the perfect mixture of storytelling techniques and Sullivan would use it for the following films and series, including Anne of Avonlea, Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story and Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning, where he once again utilized sets and actual locations alongside CGI technology, as seamlessly as if the entire film had been shot on location.

To learn more about the behind the scenes be sure to checkout the book by Kevin Sullivan, Anne of Green Gables: A Journey, which is available in the Anne of Green Gables Exclusive Blu-ray Set.

Watch Sullivan Entertainment productions on our online streaming site called GazeboTV! Plus, explore tons of Anne-inspired merchandise at Shop At Sullivan!

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