Sets, steeds fill the needs

The onslaught of “offshore” westerns has employed thousands of Albertans and pumped millions of dollars into the province, but it’s drained at least one sector of the local economy.

“We’ve bought up so many antiques,” confesses Calgary set decorator Janice Blackie- Goodine, “it’s very dry here for the period we are buying for – the 1880s.”

Blackie-Goodine began her period-piece shopping when Clint Eastwood hired her to do the sets for “Unforgiven” in 1991. She received an Academy Award nomination for her work and the ultimate compliment from Eastwood – he bought just about every antique she’d picked out, from lighting fixtures to a hall stand decorated with cow horns.

But once those antiques left the province, they were gone for good. So when Blackie-Goodine began shopping last year for “Lonesome Dove: The Series,” which tapes outside of Calgary, she began looking further afield.

Given $417,000 and six weeks to outfit 16 interior sets and two exterior towns, Blackie-Goodine and her crew combed shops from Edmonton, three hours north of Calgary, to Lethbridge, which is two hours southeast of Calgary. On their shopping list: everything from carpets and drapes to pig troughs and hay piles.

This year, “Lonesome Dove: The Series” has added new buildings to one of the towns. Blackie-Goodine had four weeks between March and April to buy more lighting fixtures, carpets, wall hangings, ornaments, even an undertaker’s slab.

Blackie-Goodine is not the only person in western Canada hunting up antiques for movies and television shows. Stuntman and wrangler John Scott has the largest horse rental and period wagon and carriage business in Canada: more than 100 pieces of horse-drawn equipment, including buggies, wagons, fancy carriages and chuckwagons.

His horses and equipment have appeared in “Unforgiven,” “Legends of the Fall,” “Children of the Dust,” “Heaven and Earth,” “Convict Cowboy” and “Little Women,” which was filmed in B.C. He also put together the wrangling crew and horses for “The Scarlet Letter,” which was filmed in British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

Scott, who divides his work time between British Columbia and his ranch in southern Alberta, travels North America working and looking for period tack and wagons. He’s bought in Nevada, New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Idaho and Washington. He just bought six saddles in Oregon. When he can’t find what he’s looking for, he’ll have it made.

He also spends a lot of time looking for animals. Although he has more than 100 horses and has trained falling horses, rearing horses and cast horses “strictly for your actors like Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood,” Scott doesn’t always have what’s requested.

For “Clan of the Cave Bear,” he had to subcontract a musk ox. For “Unforgiven,” he had to find “a real ugly gray horse, a sort of flea-bitten gray” for Eastwood, who “didn’t want it to be anything like the horse he had in Tale Rider.'”

A friend of Scott’s who lives in Ponoka, about an hour south of Edmonton, found the horse on an Indian reserve. Unlike the antiques, Eastwood left “Clint,” the horse, in Alberta.

“He went to a friend of mine who gives riding lessons to kids,” Scott says. “She’s still got him giving lessons.”

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