Still Standing host Jonny Harris strolls through Chemainus last summer, with the Native Heritage mural in the background, while filming a segment on the community for the program that airs Jan. 26 on CBC. (Photo by Chris Armstrong)

Still Standing host Jonny Harris strolls through Chemainus last summer, with the Native Heritage mural in the background, while filming a segment on the community for the program that airs Jan. 26 on CBC. (Photo by Chris Armstrong)

Chemainus on the Still Standing show schedule for Jan. 26

Season 7 shooting provided many challenges due to COVID

The seventh season of CBC’s popular television series Still Standing has started and a segment on Chemainus is on the schedule for Wednesday, Jan. 26.

The series-opener on Jan. 5 featured Hope, B.C., with interviews for the program shot by the Still Standing crew during the same trip that preceded a visit to Chemainus last July. After the program focuses on Port Stanley, Ont. Jan. 12, Wakefield, Que. is in the spotlight Jan. 19 and then Chemainus the following week. There are six other communities on the agenda before the season wraps up on March 23.

Related story: Hope episode kicks off 7th season of CBC’s Still Standing

The premise of Still Standing is to highlight small towns that have been against the ropes, but are hanging in there.

In the case of Chemainus, the process of reinventing itself began in 1982 with the evolution of the mural project and the transition to a tourist destination accentuated after the previous sawmill closed in 1983. “Now it’s looking for the next generation of visionaries to keep it on the map,” reads the promo material for the program on the show’s website.

“It’s pretty punchy and tight,” said Anne Francis, executive producer of Still Standing. “It showcases the charm and beauty of Chemainus. We talk about the murals and how that influenced a lot of other places we’ve been to as well.”

Related story: Chemainus Still Standing through all sorts of adversity

Production of the series was put on hold during the outbreak of COVID-19 and this is the first season with filming completed since the pandemic.

“There were a lot of challenges that you don’t typically encounter,” conceded Francis. “You throw a pandemic into the mix, our team went above and beyond.”

The safety of crew members and the people they encountered was paramount. “After months of monitoring the situation and carefully re-imagining how we produce the show, we were proud to be able to recommence production with COVID-19 safety as our central focus,” a message on the show’s website explained.

Among the necessary changes was to limit the number of audience members for the comedy show to wrap up the filming in each town. A makeshift tent was set up at the former St. Joseph’s School for the Chemainus finale and attendance was restricted to invitees who were seated in physically distanced cohorts.

Host Jonny Harris was prevented from his customary handshakes, hugs and meeting fans during filming and after the live show that have been central to Still Standing. But he still delivered a trademark performance that people will see on the broadcast.

“I always say it’s a Herculean effort,” noted Francis. “He nailed it again.”

Related story: Still Standing with Jonny Harris still has legs

All the interviews, scenes and information compiled from filming get narrowed down to 21 minutes and 30 seconds, she added, to fit into the half-hour time slot.

The film crew also had to conduct most of the shooting for the show outside due to COVID protocols when more inside locations would normally be utilized.

“They were outside in all the elements,” said Francis.

But the team’s work on the show has been a labour of love from the outset.

“I don’t think the travel and new places to see and explore is ever lost on anyone,” Francis pointed out.

“There’s always something amazing about every place. Everybody has a story and there’s a lot we don’t know about our own country.”

Still Standing has garnered a loyal fan base over the years.

“We have a lot of fans in the U.S. as well,” said Francis. “There’s a charm to it and you don’t necessarily need to be Canadian to appreciate it.”

As difficult as it was to film the season, everyone connected with the show agreed it was better than the alternative.

“We want to thank everyone who worked with us to re-learn how to make a show in the middle of a pandemic, and to you, our audience, for waiting a little bit longer for a new season while we figured it all out,” the Still Standing message concluded. “We’re thrilled to finally be able to safely share Season 7 of Still Standing.”

The show can be seen each Wednesday at 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on CBC.