A construction commercial filmed in fire-ravaged Lytton has sparked outrage, with many wondering why filming can happen in the Interior town as longtime residents are still waiting to gain access back to their home – nearly a year after the historic wildfire.
The two-minute-long commercial, shot for Calgary-based construction company ATCO, features two girls pulling a wagon with a small tree through the streets of Lytton past burnt-out homes, cars and businesses set to a cover of “I’m Walking on Sunshine.”
ATCO trucks are shown driving through the streets and company workers help the girls plant the tree. The commercial ends by celebrating ATCO’s 75 years in business with the tagline: “For over 75 years, we’ve been where the world needs us.”
“ATCO and the Village of Lytton council should be ashamed. Too many residents have had to revisit their trauma due to this insensitivity and corporate greed,” Lytton resident Tricia Thorpe wrote on Twitter.
The company paid a $50,000 donation to the Village of Lytton to film the promotional commercial. In response to social media backlash, ATCO said that the story in the commercial is “entirely fictional”. They said they’ve been working with the Village to provide meaningful support for recovery and rebuilding.
Only portions of the commercial were filmed in Lytton. Filming also took place in the nearby community of Ashcroft. The opening scenes of the commercial, the shots with ATCO trucks driving down the street, and the end scene with the ‘school’ and tree planting all took place in Ashcroft.
Film crews dressed the remnants of a burned home in Ashcroft with wreckage, including a burned car, from Lytton. The home burned in 2019 on Brink Street near the Ashcroft Journal office and the Ashcroft Museum.
Any close-up shots that show the faces of the two girls were filmed in Ashcroft as they were required to wear N95 masks while filming in Lytton. Scenes filmed in Lytton show the girls from the side or from behind to hide their PPE.
The Village of Ashcroft provided their film policy as a guide to Lytton’s council to help them make the decision on how ATCO should approach filming. Ashcroft did collect routine fees for filming done in the community, but did not receive the same sizeable donation that Lytton did.
B.C.’s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth faced questions in the Legislature from Peace River North MLA Dan Davies about the decision to allow ATCO to film in Lytton. Farnworth said that decision was the responsibility of the Village.
“This was a decision made by the council of Lytton. This is not something that I would have done. The council of Lytton does make these decisions, they don’t come and ask the province for permission. Quite frankly, I found it mind-boggling that that’s what in fact took place.”
Farnworth added that community members can return to their properties, but must first arrange it with the Village of Lytton and ensure that proper PPE is worn.
The commercial reignited anger over the slow pace of rebuilding efforts in Lytton. It has been nearly a year since the town was destroyed and delays over insurance, environmental assessments and plans to rebuild have left residents frustrated.
Black Press Media reached out to both ATCO and the Village of Lytton for further comment.