Dead North 2018: A post mortem

The 6th annual Dead North Film Festival was held last week from February 28th to March 4th and the NWTPMA was once again proud to be a sponsor of the only genre filmmaking festival in the circumpolar world.

(from left to right) Nina Skydsbjerg Jacobsen, Andrew Hunt, Hrönn Marinósdóttir, Stuart York, Veronica Speers, Jay Bulckaert and Pablo Saravanja on the Dead North red carpet. (courtesy of Dead North)

48 original films were written, shot and edited over the past three months and screened during the festival’s four days with 20 coveted Zombear trophies given out during an awards ceremony on Saturday night.

In the end, Aurora Gorealis, a film made in the NWT by Ben McGregor walked away with the evening’s top honours, winning Best Film. The Audience Choice award was picked up by Bejede, directed by Angela Code from the Yukon.

The full list of winners can be found at the bottom of the article.

Many of the 48 films created for Dead North will go on to screen at other festivals around the world. Past Dead North creations have screened at BFI London Film Fest, Clermont-Ferrand, Cannes Short Film Corner and Fantasia.

“2018 set a new watermark for Dead North”
Jay Bulckaert, dead north founder

The brainchild of Yellowknife’s Artless Collective (Jay Bulckaert and Pablo Saravanja), Dead North Film Festival was created as a way to bolster the filmmaking community in the NWT and has since expanded to accept films from all filmmakers residing north of the 60th parallel worldwide. This year’s program included two international films: Sweden’s Legend of the Lake and Elísabet & Baltasar from Iceland. The latter film was named winner of the inaugural Zombear for Best International Film.

“2018 set a new watermark for Dead North which I find crazy because I feel we do that every year,” said Bulckaert. “What became apparent this year is that people who are participating are taking it really seriously (while still having fun). I think people are really starting to get that Dead North is a jumping board for them as filmmakers. Also as a small volunteer run organization and I mean small (like 7 people), we have become extremely efficient in delivering a high end festival.”

One of the charms of Dead North is its accessibility for first time filmmakers. Everyone who pays the entry fee and delivers a film on deadline which meets the festival criteria gets to compete and have their film screened in front of a packed audience at Yellowknife’s Capitol Theatre. This year a rise in youth entries precipitated the creation of a Best Youth Film award, which was taken by Humane, directed by the MacKay Brothers.

First-time filmmaker Paige Loreen, 9, wrote, directed and starred in the film Run Away! (courtesy of Dez Loreen)

“We had 5 youth submissions and they were all great in their own ways,” said Bulckeart, who listed getting to present Andrea Geraghty an award for Best Marketing on what also happened to be her 13th birthday as a festival highlight.

The NWT Film Commission also debuted a new award at this year’s Dead North for the best use of an NWT location. Fireweed, a film by Behchoko’s Mason Mantla was chosen, owing to its use of several famous locations in Yellowknife.

In addition to screenings, this year’s Dead North also featured a Zombie FX Make-Up Workshop (sponsored by NWTPMA) led by Yellowknife-based make-up artist Veronica Speers, and seminars discussing marketing of genre films, film festival strategy and the challenges of filmmaking in the remote north.

The coveted Zombear trophies, created by FX artist Matt Aebig. (courtesy of Dead North)

Guest judges for this year’s festival were:

  • Andrew Hunt: Raven Banner Entertainment (Toronto)
  • Nina Paninnquaq Skydsbjerg Jacobsen: Pani Noir Films (Greenland)
  • Hrönn Marinósdóttir: Reykjavik Film Festival (Iceland)

Full List of Zombear Winners:

Best FilmAurora Gorealis
Best Director – Mason Mantla for Fireweed
Best ScriptElísabet & Baltasar
Best Editing – Ben Mcgregor for Aurora Gorealis
Best CinematographyThe Master
Best Actress – Jessica Pacunayen for Fireweed
Best Actor – Gestie Tees for BEJEDE
Best Sound DesignAurora Gorealis
Best DeathOff The Hook
Best Villain – Bull Boss for Arm Plant
Best Original MusicThe Master
Best VFX – Jeff Jones for Whistler’s Lament
Best Make-Up / Practical FXThe Master
Best TrailerKin
Best PosterThe Master
Best Use Of Mandatory Element (Fire)Arsenic Wars
Best Use Of Mandatory Element (Take It Easy)Off The Hook
Best Overall Marketing – Andrea Geraghty for Yellowknife Ground Zero: 72 Hours or Death
Best Youth FilmHumane
Best Scare – Daniel Lehmussaari for Legend Of The Lake
Best International FilmElísabet & Baltasar

Dead North Film Festival Audience Choice Award went to Writer / Director / Star, Angela Code for BEJEDE.