True North: show profiles real life of NWT trapper

True North: show profiles real life of NWT trapper
Hay River subsistence trapper Andrew Stanley checks his trap line.Photo: Artless Collective.

There will be no need to fake the intensity or stage the drama in the brand new reality adventure TV series, Fur Harvesters NWT, say the producers; the reality is hardcore enough.

The new 10-part series currently in production has Yellowknife producers Maxim Bloudov of Maximum Limit Fishing and Artless Collective duo Jay Bulckaert and Pablo Saravanja following third-generation trapper Andrew Stanley of Hay River on his backcountry trails where he kills to make a living.

The show, set to air this summer, documents Stanley’s work as a subsistence trapper out on the land, harvesting pelts to be auctioned in the spring.

“It will be very rare that we edit this show to look more dramatic than it is,” Bulckaert said. “No ‘dun, dun, dun’ music. It will be dramatic because trapping is inherently dangerous. He is around wolverines who are maybe not dead in his traps; his skidoo could break down 30 km out on the trail. We don’t really need to pump up the drama or the danger of anything. It’s straight up dangerous work.”

So far, the crew has shot four episodes with the assistance of its main sponsor, NWT Fur Harvester Auctions Inc., which will start airing in July on WildTV, NWTel cable and an online Vimeo channel.

Episodes are themed along the lines of trapping styles and species of wildlife, from beaver to marten, lynx and wolverine, mixed in with a daily dose of what it takes to survive out at his cabin, and Stanley’s Northern charisma that makes the show genuinely made-in-the-NWT.

“This is a single-character show; it’s all about Andrew Stanley and celebrating his kind of unique Northernness,” Saravanja said. “We know it’s a lifestyle show as well, so we show him preparing his cabin for the winter, cutting down enough wood for three or four months of deep snow, fetching water each day. We know that there’s these little stories we need to make a complete picture of his life out there, and we go from that. But essentially the first story is the trapping.”

Along with his sense of humour and down-to-earth attitude, Stanley’s ingenuity comes out with every challenge, most notably on a recent shoot when his small Yamaha Bravo snowmobile broke down, making it impossible for him to check his traps on the narrow bush trails – and for the crew to film.

Stanley and his four-legged companion Charlie check beaver traps for the new reality TV show, Fur Harvesters NWT.

Photo: Artless Collective

Stanley and his four-legged companion Charlie check beaver traps for the new reality TV show, Fur Harvesters NWT.

“He essentially hitchhiked into town and bartered in Enterprise a couple of pelts for a replacement Bravo – like fur for cash,” Saravanja said.

“All of a sudden it dawned on us that we were watching the fur trade in action, in real life,” Bulckaert added. “Right – you have pelts and you can go trade them for things. This is how this has always happened. This is still alive and people still do this.”

Stanley isn’t just a character in the show, either; he helps direct the shoots based on his knowledge and experience, and even turns the cameras on the film crew every once in a while for his own youtube channel, The Wild North, where his videos of life out on the trapline routinely get 12,000 views each and are part of the reason the crew hunted him down.

“We fell in love with it,” Bulckaert said. “He just had so much character and charisma.”

“And we thought, how cool would that be to make a reality show that’s really real – with a real person who is himself on camera?” Saravanja added. “It seemed like an excellent opportunity.”

Bulckaert said the show will be unique among similar outdoor reality series in that it will be entirely Northern produced rather than the work of producers from L.A., Vancouver or Toronto.

“If people up here can look at this and be like, ‘Nice job, boys; that’s how it is,’ then we’ll have done the right thing,” he said, “and I think that will make it even more popular for people who live in Texas.”

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