It's a jungles for Shirley Holmes
Rwandan Rainforest Re-created in City

Winnipeg Free Press

It's a jungle out there.

No, really. For the purpose of the producers of the youth-oriented TV series The Adventures of Shirley Holmes, it really is a jungle.

As the show's production crew works toward completion of shooting the final episode of Shirley Holmes' third season, they have been faced with an uneviable challenge - finding locations in and around Winnipeg that will convice viewers they're in the jungles of Rwanda when the episode hits the small screen later this season.

"Yes, it's been a bit of a challenge," art director Rejean Labrie said last week. "We were originally supposed to go to Barbados to film it, but because of budget reasons, we were given the challenge to create Rwanda around Winnipeg."

The episode in question deals with Shirley's journey to Africa, accompanied by her diplomat father, in search of her long-lost mother. Labrie said the script was written specifically with a tropical location in mind, so the adjustment to shooting it locally has required some rather inventive thinking.

"It has been a fairly expensive season for the other episodes, so at about the middle of the season they said we were going to have to do to it here in Winnipeg," he said. "It has scenes taking place in the jungle, and travelling scenes as well. The producers didn't want to change the script too much, so we had to find locations and make it work here."

Aided by his staff of department heads and director Norma Bailey, Labrie found a heavily foliated area at Willow Point, near Gimli, that has - with the aid of a few well-placed banana plants - doubled for the Rwandan rainforest.

"The trees there look a bit more exotic, and not quite so Canadian," he said, adding that the crew had nine days of preparation time before shooting of the season finale began. "We did the jungle scene last Wednesday, because we were concerned about the leaves turning yellow quite quickly. Then we moved on to the interior scenes."

The episode also includes a scene in a village marketplace, which called for a large, complex set and more than 50 extras.

"I think it will all look quite convincing," Labrie said. "By keeping the shots fairly tight and placing the camera at specific angles, I believe the director of photography and Norma Bailey have been able to make it work."

Fans of the show will have to wait a few months to see if the crew's efforts were successful, and to find out if Shirley succeeds in her quest to be reunited with her mother, but they can catch the first episode of the new campaign tonight at 9 pm on YTV.

Season 3 opens with a case that has extraterrestrial inclinations and a stellar guest cast - John Neville appears as a spaced-out scientist in charge of an observatory that might be recieving coded messages from beyond.

When the oddball astromomer finds himself being pursued by dark-suited members of an unspecified government agency, Shirley (Meredith Henderson) and Bo (John White) step in to try to save him and, in the process, solve his colse-encounter-driven conundrum.

Is something out there? It's a puzzle that has been pondered by minds at least as sharp as Shirley Holmes, so this case might end up in the teenage sleuth's "still unsolved" file.