Lights, camera, action: Jewish General Hospital transformed for Hollywood movie

Chairs of Hollywood stars in a corridor of Pavilion E during the filming of the movie Clouds
Chairs of Hollywood stars in a corridor of Pavilion E during the filming of the movie Clouds

JGH stands in for American hospital in Warner Bros. production

Visitors walking through the corridors of the Jewish General Hospital recently might have wondered if they’d suddenly become lost. Wherever they turned, signs read University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

In fact, the signs were props in a film set. Over the course of a November weekend, crews commandeered two areas in the JGH for a multi-million dollar Hollywood movie shoot. Through the magic of cinema, the JGH was transformed into an American hospital.

Film technicians set up a scene in the Division of Radiation Oncology of the Jewish General Hospital for the shooting of Clouds in early November
Film technicians set up a scene in the Division of Radiation Oncology of the Jewish General Hospital for the shooting of Clouds in early November

Hollywood actors, extras, lighting technicians and dozens of crew members took over sections of two pavilions for the filming of the Warner Bros. movie Clouds. The teen drama starring Neve Campbell, Fin Argus and Tom Everett Scott, is based on the true story of a terminally ill high-school student from Minnesota whose song, “Clouds,” became a viral sensation and hit No. 1 on iTunes.

Shooting at the JGH unfolded in the Division of Radiation Oncology in the basement of Pavilion G, and in the Chemotherapy Treatment Area at the Segal Cancer Centre in Pavilion E. While the shoot lasted just two days, preparations required weeks of extensive planning. Helping and supporting the process was Carl Thériault, Media Relations Specialist for CIUSSS West Central Montreal.

“I’m a facilitator,” says Mr. Thériault, who benefitted from 25 years of experience as a television journalist before joining the CIUSSS. “I know this universe. And when you see everything work out, you can say, ‘Mission accomplished’.”

The production spared no detail in converting the JGH into a make-believe U.S. hospital setting. Walls were covered over in bright colours to make them look like a pediatric ward. Bilingual signs were replaced by English-only ones. Even the logo on the Purell dispensers was changed to a generic “Hand Sanitizer.”

The crew of over 150 people, from hairdressers to sound technicians, was like “a small army,” Mr. Thériault says. “Everyone had a role to play.”

The shooting occurred in two services that are closed on weekends, ensuring that no patient services were affected. “The basic rule is to never disrupt the functioning of the hospital,” Mr. Thériault says. The production was also able to rely on a team of CIUSSS staffers, including electricians, housekeepers, parking attendants, security guards and a nurse.

This wasn’t the first time the JGH has welcomed movie or TV productions. The 2007 Quebec box-office hit Les 3 P’tits Cochons (The 3 Little Pigs) filmed at the hospital, as did more recently the Montreal-based comedy web series, YidLife Crisis.

Clouds was the biggest production to date, however. “It was like an anthill of activity here,” Mr. Thériault says. Eventually, staff and users will be able to judge the results for themselves. They’ve gotten to see the JGH up close over time. Soon – if they recognize it — they’ll be able to see it up on the big screen.

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