Image from the Sun at Midnight Teaser Trailer/Courtesy Jill and Jackfish Productions
Sponsored by the NWT Film Commission
Making a feature film — the type of movie you’d see on Netflix or in a theatre — is an impressive feat. But doing it in the Northwest Territories? Even more impressive. And that’s exactly what NWT writer/director Kirsten Carthew and producer Amos Scott are about to do later this month in Fort McPherson for their project, The Sun At Midnight.
Carthew started writing the script during her undergraduate studies more than 10 years ago. In it, Lia, a troubled urban teen is sent to live with her estranged grandmother in a community north of the Arctic Circle, and the drama unfolds.
“It’s a personal story based on my experiences in the North and people that I know. I wrote it and developed it on the side over the years,” she says. “But this is not an overnight win. I’ve worked with three different producers trying to get funding to make the film.” Scott came on board in the Fall of 2014 and has made a huge difference in getting the film ready to go into production.
Funding program improvements
Recent changes to funding programs at the NWT Film Commission and Telefilm Canada — the organization which funds nearly all major Canadian film projects — have made the project possible.
The film commission recently introduced the Northwest Territories Film Rebate Program that provides a percentage of cash back for every dollar spent in the NWT on labour/training, goods and services and travel.
“It allows producers from the NWT to access substantial funding that helps trigger other funding and create bigger budgets,” Carthew says of the program. “This is a business. Nobody wants to be the first investor. To be able to show substantial investment from the get go, creates a lot of confidence in other investors.”
“If the rebate program did not exist, even with the Telefilm funding, we would not be making this film this year. The way in which we are able to achieve our $250,000 budget is basically through help from Telefilm and the NWT Film Commission,” she adds, estimating the project’s received roughly $70,000 from both the rebate program and the department’s Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development program.
First-ever NWT Telefilm commercial project
Without Telefilm funding, usually in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, it’s nearly impossible to find the money needed to produce a feature film in Canada. This is the first commercial project Telefilm has sponsored in the NWT, owed to its new Micro-Budget Production Program.
Until now, the organization required producers and directors to have experience on major commercial projects to access the type of money required for a major feature. But without major commercial features happening in the NWT, no one here qualified for the funding. Now, the new program allows applications from emerging filmmakers like Carthew and Scott, “an opportunity…to gain experience and leverage that experience into feature projects.”
Even so, it still took nearly a year to go through a juried process competing against projects from across the country before Carthew and Scott received word a few weeks ago that they had been approved for roughly half of the project’s $250,000 budget through the Telefilm program.
Carthew’s going to McPherson this weekend to finish location scouting. The crew will be shooting the week of August 24 through September 18. From there, the film will be edited with a rough draft completed by the end of October. The team expects the project to be available for viewing sometime in 2016. Until then, check out the film’s teaser trailer below: