Unspeakable director Robert Cooper chats with Joan Miller, film commissioner for the Vancouver Island North Film Commission on set at St. Joesph’s Hospital in Comox Thursday. Photo by Erin Hauschak

Unspeakable director Robert Cooper chats with Joan Miller, film commissioner for the Vancouver Island North Film Commission on set at St. Joesph’s Hospital in Comox Thursday. Photo by Erin Hauschak

Tainted blood mini-series producer draws from personal experience

Filming of Unspeakable wraps in Comox Valley Friday

As a writer, director and executive producer of an eight part mini-series about the Canadian tainted blood scandal of the early 1980s, Robert Cooper knows the story well.

The series, which is shooting in the Comox Valley, is also very personal for the Canadian filmmaker: he was born with hemophilia and required blood products during the scandal.

“(Hemophilia) is a genetic disease that affects your blood clotting and you require a blood product in order to have your blood clot – it can affect you in minor or major ways. In the ’80s when HIV and other infectious diseases like hepatitis were infiltrating and affecting the blood system, hemophiliacs – because they depend on blood; take a lot of it – were largely affected by that unfortunate situation.”

While he did not get HIV from tainted blood, he has drawnon both his own experience and that of others to create Unspeakable, which is set to air on CBC and Sundance Channel in the U.S. next January.

The Vancouver-based production is shooting at two locations in the Valley – the Comox Valley Airport and St. Joseph’s General Hospital, which served as hospitals in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver because the look changes from floor to floor.

“This is the first time shooting in the Valley,” explained Cooper, whose is known for his work on the Stargate television franchise.

“There are certainly logistical challenges around it because we were a production that was originally built to work in Vancouver, but it’s something we’ve been looking at since the opportunity was presented to us in the fall, but our production team has done an amazing job making it an incredibly seamless process.”

While the blood scandal affected the Canadian health care system, Cooper explained it is a global story, and added it is about human beings struggling with health issues in a world in which bureaucracies, money and institutions rule.

“I feel like that is something everyone can identify with. We all have our struggles. I think that is the reason we seek out stories like this because there is a community in finding commonality – the same human experience and it makes us feel like we are not alone.”

The production — which stars Sarah Wayne Callies (Colony, Prison Break, The Walking Dead) and Shawn Doyle (Desperate Housewives, Big Love) — has been very co-operative with the other parts of the building that are still being used, such as The Views.

Joan Miller, film commissioner for the Vancouver Island North Film Commission said the production serves as an opportunity for graduates from North Island College’s TV & Film Training Programs to gain work experience, as well as for many local services to be contracted, including restaurants, hotels and security firms.

As for the shift from sci-fi to drama, Cooper said the drama genre presents its own challenges, but noted it is very rewarding to have people engage in conversations or scenes about real emotion and real-life stakes.

“Everyone who has been part of the cast and crew have talked about [how], particularly in Canada, these types of shows don’t get made all that often, and it’s a rare opportunity to really tell a human story about us that is important to our country.”

Shooting in the Valley for Unspeakable ends Friday, but the production is set to wrap at the end of June, with an estimated air date of January 2019.

For more information on the mini-series, visit unspeakableseries.com

Just Posted

Island Health is bringing a vaccination clinic to Lake Cowichan starting June 23. (Submitted)
COVID vaccine clinic coming to Lake Cowichan as area numbers lag

Clinic will operate at arena starting June 23

The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, which has been operating a treatment centre on land leased from the Nanoose First Nation for 35 years (pictured), has begun a fundraising campaign to open a new centre near Duncan. (Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society photo)
New Indigenous treatment centre to be built near Duncan

Centre will help survivors of residential schools

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Mariah Segee (centre) was named 2021 Lady of the Lake last Saturday, with Megan Rowbottom (left) as first princess, and Macey Anderson (right) as second princess. (Submitted)
Lady of the Lake returns to Lake Cowichan

Mariah Segee takes the crown in first pageant since 2018

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

Flowers and candles were laid on the driveway of the Weber home, where Kerri Weber was found dead in November 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria man to stand trial for death of his wife last November

Ken Weber is charged with second-degree murder of his wife, Kerri Weber

The discovery of a missing woman’s body in Nanaimo earlier this month is now being treated as homicide, say Nanaimo RCMP. (File photo)
Discovery of woman’s body in downtown Nanaimo now being investigated as a homicide

Amy Watts was found dead near Albert Street and Victoria Crescent on June 3

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

Most Read