Hollywood True North

YK’s Homegrown Film Industry is Flourishing

We are stressed right out. It’s a beautiful day out there, the boat bobbing up and down in the water, just taunting me out on the dock while I sit here pounding out emails and logging footage at the same time. Pablo Saravanja, my partner in crime at Artless Collective, is on the phone with a client in Toronto while emailing another client here in town. We are scrambling to keep track of all our productions in their various stages. At the moment, we have too much work. First World problems right, but this isn’t bragging. I write this to point out a reality that is very unique here in Yellowknife…we are full-time, gainfully employed filmmakers. Let that fact wash over you for a few seconds, sink into your medulla, because it doesn’t seem real. Even we don’t believe it half the time, but it is very much the case, and we pay our bills (mostly on time) with money we make 100 per cent from being self-employed filmmakers. I’m not saying we are rich by any means, but we haven’t starved to death yet, and surprisingly, in a town of about 19,000 people, we aren’t the only ones.

My educated guess is there are around 15 freelance filmmakers earning a living in Yellowknife. I’m not talking about weekend hobbyists or the crew of buddies who film propane tanks blowing up. I’m talking about real companies run by real professionals who put out broadcast-worthy products that actually get broadcast. Not only are they the real deal, they actually provide the North with the most employment for film professionals, the best pay, and by far, the best experience for the ol’ demo reel. In the last six months we have fielded about five requests from southern productions looking to cash in on those wild and crazy people we call our neighbours. But in a world where these companies green-light reality shows like Bridalplasty (where women compete to win a dream wedding and plastic surgery), I am convinced we can at least do better than that, and we are. There are several television shows in full-throttle production right here in Yellowknife, with more coming in the very near future. Here’s a closer look at some of them.

Maximum Limit Fishing (MLF) – The Facts

Producer: Max Bloudov

Number of Seasons: 4Local Professionals Hired: Producer, Director, Cinematographer, Editor, Talent

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On Fathers Day 2010, Max received a video camera from his lady, hopped on his boat with a buddy and the pilot episode was shot. Max shot five more episodes and a popular series was born. In 2011 the show was picked up by NWTEL Community TV Channel 20, and with them on board, WILD TV, a Canadian hunting and fishing network, signed on. In the spring of 2013, Max received a letter from WILD TV stating that MLF had 1.6 million viewers in its third season, making it the top-ranked, Canadian produced fishing show. Max is also branching out and developing a new reality show called Mad Trappers that will showcase the lives of several NWT trappers. Mad Trappers goes into full production this fall.

To view the trailer, search: youtube trapper, new series pilot

Check him out: maximumlimitfishing.com

Knife Knews – The Facts

Producer: Artless Collective

Number of Seasons: 2Local Professionals Hired: Writer, Producer, Director, Cinematographer, Editor, Talent

All it took was a squirrel getting fried on a telephone pole one morning and we had our first story for Knife Knews. This satirical, fake news show – the only one of its kind in the NWT – was brought back by popular demand in 2013 for a second season on NWTEL Channel 20. Apart from the pure joy of laughing our heads off while producing this, we have also learned the true value of writing, which is so key to comedy. As a result, we get people stopping us all the time quoting lines from the show that we had long since forgotten. Artless Collective is also producing a new short sit-com called Knife Life that airs on the same channel, as well as online: Check them out: artlesscollective.com

Dene A Journey – The Facts

Producer: NCS Productions & Amos Scott

Number of Seasons: 2Local Professionals Hired: Writer, Producers, Director, Cinematographers, Editors, Talent, Music, Narration, Sound

The first Indigenous documentary series to be filmed in the NWT, each episode of DAJ follows a young person who heads out on the land to rediscover their Dene language and culture, all while capturing the rugged beauty of the North. Amos Scott is the man behind this groundbreaking vision, which was three years in the making. He assembled a crack team of filmmakers under one roof at NCS Productions and shot the first season of the show, which was picked up by APTN and premiered in January to great reviews. It is now one of their top-rated shows. Dene a Journey and NCS Productions are leading the charge in terms of hiring local and Indigenous professionals on a full-time basis, and have created a high watermark for the rest of us to meet. Production has already started for season two, with some of the most unique Northern adventures ever caught on camera.

Check them out: deneajourney.squarespace.com

There are many others out there creating productions for us to work on as well. Andrew Silke just wrapped Matt and Messy, a short, indie rom-com that hired most key creative positions here in town. He recently left Vancouver to come back to Yellowknife where he finds it easier to be a filmmaker. As he puts it: “I feel like you can go further in the territories as a filmmaker, down south you can dream about projects but up here, you can actually produce them.” For a town this size, we have an insane amount of talent, and more to the point, real and properly paid work. The filmmaking scene up here reminds me a bit of the creative groundswell during the grunge scene in Seattle in the ‘90s and there is too much momentum for it to stop now. Hollywood True North is rising.

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