Minister highlights growth of film industry in speech to NWT legislature

NWT Minister of Industry, Tourism & Investment (ITI), Wally Schumann, made note of the recent accomplishments of our territory’s film industry in a Minister’s Statement delivered to the NWT Legislative Assembly on Monday.

Schumann, who as ITI minister oversees the NWT Film Commission, noted the feature film Elijah and the Rock Creature, as well as documentaries I Hold The Dehcho In My Heart and Revolution Moosehide as recent success stories.

The minister also gave credit to the NWTPMA for its work in helping grow a sustainable film economy in the NWT, and spoke about the newly-announced Film Apprenticeship Pilot program—which is being jointly delivered by both the Government of the Northwest Territories and the NWTPMA.

“(The apprenticeship program) will now provide opportunities for up-and-coming filmmakers to get some of the guidance and mentorship they need to succeed,” said Schumann.

Full text of the Minister’s Statement is below:

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has committed to supporting the film industry to further develop the skills and competencies of NWT film producers, build infrastructure, assist below-the-line crew and support services, and help develop marketing and communications plans for films made in the NWT.

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the first annual NWT Film and Media Awards that concluded this year’s Yellowknife International Film Festival. In accepting an award for his impact in the NWT film industry, the godfather of the NWT’s film industry Terry Woolf said our industry was experiencing a renaissance. Today I am happy to amplify his words, share some successes, and highlight how the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment is sustaining this renaissance with investments in the future of this important sector in our economy.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot talk about the significant growth that we have seen in our film sector without recognizing the NWT Professional Media Association. Their role in our local industry has been, and continues to be, a critical driver of its success. Without their mentorship, support, and leadership, it is unlikely that the slate of nominations at this year’s inaugural awards show would have been as full as it was.

While in attendance this year, I was able to announce a new Film Apprenticeship Program that will soon provide opportunities for the Northwest Territories’ film workforce to gain on-the-job experience with major film productions. This program will be delivered by the NWT Professional Media Association with the financial backing of the Department of ITI’s NWT Film Commission and the Department of Education, Culture and Employment. This new support is one that originated in a conversation I had with Ms. Jennifer Walden on the set of Red Snow. It will now provide opportunities for up-and-coming filmmakers to get some of the guidance and mentorship they need to succeed.

Mr. Speaker, this year’s Yellowknife International Film Festival was also an opportunity to shine the spotlight on, and celebrate the success of, some of the projects that have been made possible, directly and indirectly, by our government’s investments under Take One – the NWT Film Strategy and Action Plan. They include projects like the big ticket premiere of Ms. Jennifer Walden and Mr. Jeremy Emerson’s Elijah and the Rock Creature. It was exciting to see the hard work, passion and time invested in this project rewarded in a first showing that sold out in minutes.

This year’s festival also featured films like I Hold the Dehcho in My Heart and Revolution Moosehide. Productions that further confirmed the talents and skills of local producers and crews which also serves to share important cultural stories from our territory. Off screen, the 2018 Film Festival included a program of workshops, speakers, and networking which brought together talent from within the territory and beyond. Together, they were able to gain valuable knowledge, and encourage each other.

Through ITI’s NWT Film Commission, the Government of the Northwest Territories is investing, every day, in the growth and diversity of our economy and its film sector. The NWT Film Rebate Program, in particular, has helped the NWT support high profile productions like the multi-award winning Sun at Midnight, while leveraging an estimated $1.8 million in economic activity from our $280,000 investment. Through film support contributions under our Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development, or SEED Policy, we provide financial resources for local film makers to produce and promote their films.

We are also increasing the profile of the NWT with location marketing and global networking led by our Film Commission which is attracting and encouraging both local and guest producers to film in the NWT. The film and media sector offers extraordinary opportunities to share our stories, and diversify our economy. We continue to invest in this area, and look forward to more success in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Honourable Wally Schumann, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment

Scott Clouthier is a filmmaker, editor and colourist based in Hay River, NWT. He currently serves as Vice President of the NWTPMA

YK Film Fest returns for 12th edition

The 12th annual Yellowknife International Film Festival (YKIFF) is set to take place from September 26-30, 2018 in NWT’s capital city.

A flagship event for the NWT film community, YKIFF presents a program of the best NWT-produced films as well as those from the circumpolar world along with a handpicked selection of international works.

Though an official program for 2018 has yet to be released, it is anticipated the NWT-produced feature film Elijah and the Rock Creature, written and directed by Jen Walden, will make its premiere.

The festival will also include a program of free filmmaking workshops as well as a gala reception hosted by the NWT Film Commission.

For more information on the Yellowknife International Film Festival, visit: www.ykfilmfest.com.

Scott Clouthier is a filmmaker, editor and colourist based in Hay River, NWT. He currently serves as Vice President of the NWTPMA

Remembering: Versus Ivan

A reclusive web-programmer is forced to confront the threatening concept of change when the food packages he receives in the mail each day mysteriously stop arriving.

Fourteen years ago, a film school graduate and his friends turned this unique elevator pitch into Versus Ivan, the first feature film to be produced in the NWT.

In a year when Kirsten Carthew’s landmark film The Sun at Midnight is still criss-crossing the globe and Jen Walden’s debut feature Elijah and the Rock Creature, is mere months away from release, we thought it would be good to look back upon the plucky beginnings of feature filmmaking in our territory.

We caught up with Versus Ivan writer-director Chris Gamble by email:

NWTPMA: Can you describe how you got into film?

Chris Gamble: When I was younger, growing up on Dagenais Drive, there was a whole group of us kids who would shoot movies on a Canon camcorder. We would edit them between two VCR’s and have fake Academy Awards for all of our movies each year. So I really have positive associations with filmmaking from a young age.

When I was older I loved creative writing and eventually found my way into writing plays in high school. This evolved in screenwriting in university, and it’s the medium I’ve worked in most since graduating.

A still from Versus Ivan. (Courtesy of Chris Gamble)

NWTPMA: Did you make any films before Versus Ivan?

CG: In university I made several short films, as well as wrote and directed a variety of theatre.

NWTPMA: What made you decide to make a feature film, and why specifically did you want to make it in the North?

CG: In university I majored in film and theatre. With graduation looming, I knew that I had a unique opportunity to bring together some close, trusted friends from university, with my hometown. I think I had a pretty good idea of how little I actually knew, but I also realized that the most valuable education I was going to get after graduating was to go out and put all my passion into a project. I had the good fortune of being surrounded by many wonderful friends in university who had that same willingness to get on board a wild and crazy project for a summer in Yellowknife and see what we could make of it.

In terms of shooting it in Yellowknife, it was never really a question for me for several reasons. The first was that I wanted to make a film in Yellowknife, because it was the place that I was from and the place that I loved. Even though the film isn’t necessarily Yellowknife-centric, I just always imagined Versus Ivan being set there. I think the personality of the city comes through.

On top of that, I knew that I had the support network that I needed in Yellowknife. There are so many wonderful people who are willing to contribute their time, passion, and creativity to a project if they see you truly believe in it. As a first-time feature filmmaker (I was twenty-four at the time), I had probably bitten off far more than I could chew. Being surrounded by such a wonderful support network was a huge relief and allowed me to focus on getting the film made.

NWTPMA: How did you go about finding funding for your film? What was the budget?

CG: Our budget was $86,000 on paper, although a lot of that was in-kind support and deferrals. Full credit to my brother and co-producer Sam for pulling much of that together. In terms of actual cash in hand, I believe our budget was closer to $36,000. This came from grants from the NWT Arts Council and the Government of the Northwest Territories, as well as some very generous investors who were willing to put their own money in the project.

NWTPMA: Nowadays, we have the NWT Film Commission, WAMP and the NWTPMA. What film resources were available in Yellowknife when you made the film?

CG: WAMP was around when we shot Versus Ivan, thought I would say that it is in its infancy compared to now. Otherwise, I don’t recall there being a lot of film organizations in place.

NWTPMA: Can you give us a synopsis of Versus Ivan?

CG: A reclusive web-programmer is forced to confront the threatening concept of change when the food packages he receives in the mail each day mysteriously stop arriving.

NWTPMA: What made you decide to write it?

CG: I was fresh out of university and knew that I had a unique opportunity to make a film at that time in my life. I was really inspired by the some of the more mainstream indies at the time, like The Royal Tenenbaums and Punch Drunk Love, which I think had a fairly big influence on my writing.

Before Versus Ivan I’d written and directed a lot of theatre and a few short films, so it was also an opportunity to try my hand at writing and directing a feature. It gave me an opportunity to experience both and see if my passion lay more in directing, writing, or both.

NWTPMA: Where did you shoot the film?

CG: The film was shot entirely in Yellowknife.

Robert Butler as Lennie in Versus Ivan. (Courtesy of Chris Gamble)

NWTPMA: Was it a challenge finding a crew to help you make the film? How did you address that?

CG: The film was comprised entirely of cast and crew from Yellowknife, and people I knew from school. I believe in the end we had more than seventy people from Yellowknife who contributed in big and small ways. I think our poor production designer could have used more help, but this was mainly due to the ridiculous number of locations that I had written into the script.

NWTPMA: How long was your shooting schedule?

CG: Our shooting schedule was for seventeen days of shooting over a twenty-one day period, with some very ambitious and long days. We ended up extending it to eighteen days of shooting over twenty-two days to do a few pick-up shots with the leads.

NWTPMA: Did anything interesting happen during the course of making your film?

CG: During one scene, our lead attacks another character in a back-alley. Liam Karry, who was not only our lead (Ivan), but also our stunt coordinator, had choreographed a particularly realistic looking fight. During one of the shots we had to film it from a security camera POV, meaning anyone not in the fight had to be well back from the fight. Halfway through our first take a good Samaritan happened upon the fight scene through an alleyway that we’d neglected to block off. He yelled at Liam to stop and started rushing towards them to break up the fight. Fortunately the crew appeared from their hiding spots before he reached Liam, and he realized we were shooting a film. As Liam later described it, “When I saw the look in his eyes, I genuinely thought he was going to kill me.”

The weather was incredibly cooperative for the film. Over all of June 2004, there was about five minutes of rain, and it was during one of our indoor shoot days.

Liam Karry as Ivan in Versus Ivan. (Courtesy of Chris Gamble)

NWTPMA:  Were there any unforeseen setbacks?

CG: Not so much setbacks as day-to-day problems that I think come with making any film. There was one day, after six or seven days of straight shooting, when we moved to a new location (Ivan’s apartment) and the location simply wasn’t working. I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit the location since the props and furniture had been moved in. We spent several hours in the morning shooting and it just wasn’t working for me. On top of that, I had a brutal toothache. At that point we had a crew meeting and decided to call it a day. Full credit to my location manager, first AD, and producer for reworking the schedule to accommodate the scheduled change. Lying in the dentist chair later with some time to reflect, I was finally able to figure out what the hurtles were. After our fairly insane shooting schedule, sitting in a dentist’s chair with some time to silently reflect was actually a bit of a luxury. After passing on my thoughts to the production designer the next day, I showed up on set and everything really clicked for us. I think on top of that, everyone just really needed that half day to regroup.

NWTPMA: How did you release the film? And where did it play?

CG: The film had its premiere in Yellowknife in December 2004 at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre, with several screenings. The film festival premiere was at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival.

NWTPMA: What kind of response did the film get?

CG: Our world premiere was in Yellowknife at the Northern Arts and Cultural Center in December 2004. The audience was incredibly supportive, laughed at all the right parts, and genuinely seemed to enjoy the film. It was such a positive experience for everyone involved in the film. Our festival premiere was at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival, which was hugely rewarding as the few crew not from the Northwest Territories all attended Queen’s University in Kingston with me. The film was sold out, with another great audience. The energy and excitement was just so palpable, and the independent cinema in Kingston asked us if they could program and screen the film a few months later.

Unfortunately, after that there was not a lot of pickup for Versus Ivan. Looking back, I can appreciate why as it’s a strange concept, and many of us were first-timers doing the very best we could to make a film. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, but as I’m sure many filmmakers do, in retrospect there are things that I wish I could go back and change, or advice I wish someone had given me.

NWTPMA: How do you think the process of making Versus Ivan would be different if you were to try to make it in the NWT today?

CG: We shot Versus Ivan in the summer of 2004, just as high definition prosumer technology was becoming a possibility. We wanted to shoot something that looked like film, but on our budget it simply wasn’t feasible. However there was an 24FPS SD Panasonic camera with an anamorphic lens adaptor that shot gorgeous footage for what was available at the time (and within our budget). I remember the first time we reviewed test footage, we were all in awe of how filmic it looked considering it was digital video. Fast-forward to 2018 and almost any phone out there can shoot at a higher, better quality than what we were able to shoot at the time on our budget.

We spent a chunk of our budget to get the opening shot from a helicopter, which was a low-fly over of a frozen Great Slave Lake in March. Today you could get the same shot for a fraction of the price with a drone, and our poor actor wouldn’t have to get buzzed by a helicopter.

As well, I think we also only had one person on set with a cell phone. At the time it didn’t really seem like an inconvenience, but trying to make the same film now without using cell phones to communicate with crew off-set would probably seem like a real pain, especially given how spread out we were around Yellowknife. I can’t imagine how it would happen in a larger city without the benefit of a production office.

Funding opportunities in the Northwest Territories have also come a long way since 2004. At the time we were able to get some grants from the Government of the Northwest Territories and the NWT Arts Council, but there were no tax credits at the time. I think the film industry in Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories has grown in leaps and bounds, especially over the past ten years.

Poster for Berkshire County, a horror film written by Chris Gamble and released in 2014. (IMDb)

NWTPMA: What have you done since making Versus Ivan?

CG: Shortly after Versus Ivan I attended the Canadian Film Centre for their feature screenwriting program. In 2012 I wrote, directed, and edited a cycling documentary called Chasing Ninth, and in 2014 a feature horror film I wrote called Berkshire County was shot just outside of Toronto. Since then I’ve been working on several screenplays and a few other writing projects.

Berkshire County (written by Gamble), is available for streaming on iTunes, as well as DVD

 

Scott Clouthier is a filmmaker, editor and colourist based in Hay River, NWT. He currently serves as Vice President of the NWTPMA

Monterey Media snaps up U.S. rights to The Sun at Midnight

Film to hit American theatres this fall

It’s been less than a week since The Sun at Midnight‘s producers announced the film was set for a theatrical run in Australia. Then, late yesterday, came the news that its US rights have been purchased by distributor Monterey Media and plans are underway for the film’s theatrical debut south of the border.

In a Facebook post yesterday afternoon, director Kirsten Carthew shared a link to an article published by Variety magazine which includes a section about the acquisition. The article states Monterey Media has purchased all rights to the film in the US (which—presumably—includes theatrical, non-theatrical, digital and home video distribution). It also states Monterey is planning to launch the film in US theatres this September and October.

The Sun at Midnight is the first NWT-produced feature film to receive Telefilm funding. It was directed by Carthew and produced by Carthew and Amos Scott. It stars Devery Jacobs (who just announced she is joining the cast of the Starz series ‘American Gods’) and Duane Howard (The Revenant).

For more info on the film, visit www.thesunatmidnightmovie.com.

Scott Clouthier is a filmmaker, editor and colourist based in Hay River, NWT. He currently serves as Vice President of the NWTPMA

The Sun at Midnight getting theatrical run Down Under

Director Kirsten Carthew’s The Sun at Midnight, the first Telefilm-supported feature film to be produced in the Northwest Territories, will be shown on theatre screens in Australia this July, according to a media release issued today by its producers.

“The film has screened at over 50 festivals and traveled around the world, winning awards in the USA and Canada and traveling the world to screenings in India, China, Russia, Germany, the Czech Republic, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Algeria,” reads the release.

Filmed in and around the small NWT community of Fort McPherson in 2016, the film stars Devery Jacobs (Rhymes for Young Ghouls), Duane Howard (The Revenant) and many actors from our territory. It tells the story of Lia, a city girl of Gwich’in heritage, who is sent to live with her grandmother following the passing of her mother. After trouble fitting into her new surroundings, Lia steals a fishing boat and tries unsuccessfully to escape to Whitehorse. Broke down and stranded in the wild, she meets and befriends a solitary hunter who is searching for a lost caribou herd. It was co-produced by the Gwich’in Tribal Council.

The film succeeds in presenting both the beauty of the NWT’s Beaufort Delta region and the culture of the Gwich’in people.

The film has won several awards in its festival travels, including Best Narrative Feature at the Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas, Bursos Award for Best Overall Performance (Jacobs) at the Whistler Film Festival and Leo Awards for best editing and best original score.

available on dvd & blu-ray

The news release also indicates the film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray in limited quantities locally in Yellowknife. They can be purchased at Birchwood Coffee K’o, Western Arctic Moving Pictures, or directly from producer Amos Scott.

For more information about the film, visit www.thesunatmidnightmovie.com.

Scott Clouthier is a filmmaker, editor and colourist based in Hay River, NWT. He currently serves as Vice President of the NWTPMA

Yellowknife short film tapped to face off on CBC

This year’s edition of CBC’s Short Film Face-Off will feature a film produced in the NWT.

BAIT! from director Keith Robertson, has been selected to represent the northern territories as one of nine finalists in this year’s competition.

Each episode in the TV series features three short films which are screened and then critiqued in person by panelists from Canada’s film and media industry. Once a final three films are selected, the overall winner is then chosen by viewers.

The winning filmmaker receives a prize to use towards the creation of their next short film, which will be licenced for broadcast by the CBC.

Keith Robertson’s film BAIT! was originally created for the Dead North Film Festival in 2017.

Robertson’s BAIT! was originally created for the Dead North Film Festival in 2017 and was chosen to be part of a Canadian Short Film programme at Cannes later that year. It has since screened at the Available Light Film Festival in Whitehorse.

In the film, an ice-fisherman drops his bait in the water but soon finds himself being lured by something beneath the surface.

This isn’t the first time an NWT film was featured in the CBC series. Painted Girl, a film by Yellowknife filmmaker Jen Walden, was part of the competition in 2016.

For a full listing of this year’s CBC Short Film Face-Off selections, visit this link: http://www.cbc.ca/shortfilmfaceoff

Scott Clouthier is a filmmaker, editor and colourist based in Hay River, NWT. He currently serves as Vice President of the NWTPMA

Aarigaa: Meet the NWT’s newest film festival

“Inuvik is overdue for a film festival, and why wait any longer?”

This statement was written in the first Facebook post made by organizers of Inuvik’s newly-minted Aarigaa Film Festival on their official page.

Set to take place on July 20 & 21, the inaugural edition of the NWT town’s first very-own film fest (a production of Inuvialuit Communications Society) has been a long time coming, said Festival Director, ICS manager and local filmmaker Dez Loreen.

“The festival was started because our community has been lacking a film presence. We have a handful of local people from the region who are making films and shorts, but we never had a stage to showcase them,” he said.

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Scott Clouthier is a filmmaker, editor and colourist based in Hay River, NWT. He currently serves as Vice President of the NWTPMA

Dead North hits the road

Dead North Film Festival kicked off its 2018 Road Tour with a stop at the Riverview Cineplex in Hay River over the weekend.

Nearly 100 rabid horror fans took in all 48 films from this year’s festival over the course of two late evening screenings. Making the trip from Yellowknife to co-host the event were Dead North founders and board members Jay Bulckaert and Pablo Saravanja (aka Artless Collective).

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Scott Clouthier is a filmmaker, editor and colourist based in Hay River, NWT. He currently serves as Vice President of the NWTPMA

CBC New Indigenous Voices – Apply Now!

Our good friends over at the National Screen Institute (NSI) have partnered with CBC to deliver the CBC New Indigenous Voices program.

The program is a 14 week course for Indigenous Canadians aged 18-35 which exposes them to opportunities in film, TV and digital media.

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Scott Clouthier is a filmmaker, editor and colourist based in Hay River, NWT. He currently serves as Vice President of the NWTPMA