After months organizing cast, crew and financial flow, production is finally underway for the feature-length film The Sun at Midnight.
Despite gruelling daily shoots lasting as long as 16 hours, staff say the opportunity to work on the authentically Northern project makes the effort well worth it.
“We’re having a lot of fun between the crew and the cast, we’ve all got a nice vibe together,” said producer Amos Scott. “It’s an indie film, it’s always fun to be able to have a chance to work on that kind of project. I think audiences around the world need to see what our North is like.”
The movie is being made by Jill and Jackfish Productions, run by Scott and the film’s head writer/director Kirsten Carthew. Shooting for the project began on location in Yellowknife at the end of August before cast and crew flew to their set on the land in Fort McPherson early last week.
The Sun at Midnight tells the story of urban teenager Lia, a troubled girl sent to live with her estranged grandmother in Fort McPherson. Quickly exasperated by life in the Arctic, she escapes by boat along the Mackenzie River until she runs into hunter Alfred, who reluctantly takes her under his wing.
“Playing Lia is Devery Jacobs, known for her role in Rhymes for Young Ghouls among other things,” Scott said. “For Alfred we have Duane Howard, who just finished working on the production of The Revenant with Leonardo DiCaprio.”
Inuvik-born Gwich’in musician William Greenland made his professional acting debut in the movie as Danny, a tour guide.
For him, the tale hits a nerve as it explores a struggle many young indigenous folks experience while trying to balance traditional ways of living and knowing with the ways of a more contemporary, high-speed life.
“The story is kind of typical of any young person who is so caught up in today’s society and technology that they forget about getting out on the land and getting away from the iPhones and the computers and all this new technology,” Greenland said. “It’s interesting because a lot of our young people are not as strongly interested in the language and the culture as they should be. We’re losing a lot of our elders now, so where are we going to get our stories, our knowledge about the history of our people if we don’t have our young people working on it today?”
Greenland is hopeful that projects like The Sun at Midnight will influence a youth to take the time to explore their own roots.
“I think this movie will get people to stop and think about how they can get reconnected to their culture,” he said.
A boon for the NWT film industry
Funding for the movie came from the Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) Program, as well as the NWT Film Commission’s Film Rebate Program, set up last year to encourage NWT filmmakers.
“I think it’s just good for the North to have a story like this come out,” Scott said. “It’s really important and a really great project for our industry locally and, hopefully, it will spur other things that come along.”
Filming will wrap in mid-September, with post-production taking place over the winter.
The Sun at Midnight is set to make its debut in the spring of 2016, hitting the film festival circui?t soon after.